As we get closer to spring ball, the enormity of what is going to happen here at Oregon State becomes more and more apparent to me. There are three things that are so vital to this spring, and that will reverberate through the program for the next few years:
1. What do we really have?
As many have heard me scream from the mountain tops, I think that the talent at OSU is fine. I think it is better than fine. There are players here that have the potential to be amazing. On the offensive line, I think we may quickly find that many players were far better than we anticipated. A few years of neglect in terms of training style, preventative care and an incredibly tough system have really thinned out this herd.
The class of 2012 had the highest rated offensive line class to ever step foot on the OSU campus. Within it was seemingly sure fire future NFL players like Isaac Seumalo, Garrett Weinreich and Gavin Andrews. That talent was not trumped up or faked. At the beginning of camp in 2012, it was a toss up if maybe Weinreich would start as a true freshman at tackle. Those players that came to OSU were solid Pac-12 prospects. Along the way, Weinreich has missed two seasons due to constant pain from a terrible knee injury, Grant Bays has had chronic disc pain in his back, Isaac Seumalo had to miss a year due to a broken foot, Gavin Andrews played last year with a hairline fracture in his foot and missed most of last season recovering from Mono, Josh Mitchell has played with a torn labrum and knee pain and transplanted tight end Dustin Stanton missed the first half of the year, and his shot at being a full time starter in August, due to an ankle injury that may have been mis-diagnosed.
This year, we will see what the changes in conditioning and training by Coach Simon, the changes in coaching by TJ Woods and the changing in scheme by Coach Baldwin will do. Over the last three years, we have built up opinions of this team and their players based on what we have seen. This spring we are going to see how much that changes with the new Coaching Staff and new routines. Ultimately, we will probably be surprised by the results because everything is different now.
2. Who is really the starter?
As alluded to above, there is a lot of preconceived notions about players going around. When I say the names Storm Woods, Richard Mullaney, Caleb Smith, Jalen Grimble and Larry Scott, a lot of people have already formed opinions of them and their abilities or shortcomings. I would check those at the door come spring practice. I cannot stress enough how much different this offense will be and how much different the coaches will be. They have no preconceived relationships or thoughts on the players and what they want from different positions is going to be different as well.
For example, when I read about the team, I read about Luke Del Rio being the starter at QB. That very well could be, but don’t assume anything. While Luke has a great skill set, we don’t know if that skill set matches everything OSU is going to do this year. You still have players like Nick Mitchell, Brent Vanderveen, Kyle Kempt, Marcus McMaryion and the newly arrived Seth Collins. Collins and McMaryion are the two most different in terms of skill set than the classic Mike Riley QB. Nick Mitchell is probably the best blend of the two and then Luke is probably the most prototypical Mike Riley passer with Brent falling between Luke and Nick on the ‘Riley-O-Meter QB Skill Graph.’
Since Mike Riley is no longer here, that scale changes and what is needed changes. There is a lot of work that needs to happen between now and fall camp to decide on a starter. Spring is the first opportunity for guys to do it outside of grade established pecking orders and into the order established by the coaches based on performance.
It is going to be THE most exciting spring across the board for a Beaver offense because it will be the only one since 2003 where every single position is up for grabs.
3. What the heck are we going to really do?
While I have mentioned already the need to check player expectations at the door, there is something else that needs to be left behind:
How Mike Riley ran things.
In no way is this a slam on Mike, but I have gone to a handful of practices every year and honestly, they were all exactly the same. The same skill periods, the same special teams times, the same individual work and the same schemes. We saw QB;s being allowed to continue a play after a ‘sack’ and we saw guys choose to finish plays on their own, but never be told they had to. We saw a practice that had lots of teaching, but not a lot of urgency. We saw players that listened and did what their coaches said, but not all coaches were equally vocal.
This year we are going to see a new look to everything (maybe) and a new offense entirely. Rather than just seeing guys take drops, we are going to see read option mesh times. Rather than just see walk throughs with the tight ends and line we will probably see more live situations within smaller groups. There will still be individual time, there will still be skelly and there will still be team drills, but the tempo, the emphasis, the skills and the actual type of teaching will be different. That, to this hefty blog writer, is the most exciting and scary part of the whole change. Will I even be able to watch when I want? Who knows, but I guarantee that this spring will be memorable because it will be the first time since Jerry Pettibone took over that every aspect of the offense and defense will be revised, reworked and redone.
While I think/hope the results on the will be different than when Pettibone got here, the excitement is still there. I remember being VERY excited for Jerry because, in many ways, he was the opposite of Kragthorpe. I remember watching Rocky Long coach, watching the change in the players and watching Pettibone and his staff trying to get a finesse passing team to play tough as nails option ball. There were a lot of things going against Jerry, and I don’t think his in game decisions were amazing, but there was a lot of good there. Anyone that watched guys like Tony O’Billovich, who weighed about 180 pounds soaking wet, tear through offensive players like a future NFL starter know what I am talking about. (Side note: Some of my best memories as a high school kid was hanging out at Tony’s apartment with Christian Miller and watching his dog drool over bacon before he told him he could have some. I still don’t have the same discipline Tony’s dog did. Nor will I…)
I think we will see more of that attitude on defense, but offensively I have no idea what is all going to be there. Three tight end sets? Sure! Four wide receivers? Why not? Spread formations? You better believe it! The potential changes this spring has this writer of The Official Candy Report excited like he was back in the days of the infamous Enchilada Debacle of 2008. The fun is being brought back to the program and I am excited as all get out!
GO BEAVERS! RESPECT THE PROCESS! FTD! OTHER LOUD ALL CAPS SAYINGS THAT SHOW HOW FIRED UP I AM…