There is a lot of speculation around Beaver Football right now. With so many changes to the staff, to the strength coaches, to the Athletic Director and even to the change in cooks, 2015 will be a season unlike we have seen since 1999. Even then, we were going from one type of offense to something similar. This is going from apples to oranges on both sides of the ball.
As I read about the Beavers and their chances or what their players will be like, I just wonder how people know. In the media, there is a simple formula for the most part. You look at who was there last year, who is still there and if there is enough there to improve or regress. If you are replacing a QB, that is usually good for a two game slide at least. If you are replacing your entire offensive line but return a QB and Running Back, that is apparently a championship formula. At least in the National Media.
Even us as fans hold on to things that we shouldn’t:
1. First year QB’s can’t produce right away:
That may have been true under Riley, but that is not universally true. The new Beaver offense route tree is different, the decision making different and the way it is blocked and the responses from defenses will be different. As we have seen year after year in Eugene, or in Arizona or WSU or even ASU there are ways to make the offense easier. You have to be more efficient and better at certain things, but there is no reason that Mitchell or Collins or whoever cannot step in right away and be effective at their position.
Two of the last three Pac-12 Championship games have featured first year QB’s in new systems (Hogan from Stanford in 2012, Solomon from Arizona in 2014). The losing team in the 2010 National Championship game was a first year starter.
It can be done.
2. Our offensive line is terrible.
This is a common theme among many Beaver faithful. A lot of fans, many whose opinions I respect, were done with the work Coach Cav had done at OSU and saw the line as an example of the demise of Riley as an effective coach at Oregon State. While I don’t totally agree, I do know of one tangible difference we are seeing this year.
Coach Evan Simon.
In the last three years, OSU has had to wholesale replace linemen. Injuries have piled up so badly in recent years, that we have seen two rising stars retire this off season (Bays and Weinreich) and the longest consecutive games stretch of the same five linemen starting at OSU in the last three years is 5 games (the last five games of the 2013 season). While teams like Stanford seem to game in and game out keep the same names on the lineup rosters, Oregon State seems to always have guys with debilitating injuries on the field.
It has also been a long time since anyone has seen OSU consistently blow defenses off the line like they did in the 2006 Sun Bowl. No one thinks of OSU when they think of
While there may be plenty to blame Coach Cav for, there is a lot of blame to go to the way the staff handled strength and weight training. In many cases they relied on players to self motivate and be leaders. This hands off approach works well in the NFL where under-performing players can be fined or cut, but in college you are making leaders.
Coach Andersen and Coach Simon demand a lot of the players and of the leadership on the team and the results are staggering not just in the progress made, but in the progress needed. What we see line up on September 4th will not physically resemble what lined up in the Civil War in 2014. Not even close.
3. Our Defense:
Last year was a very frustrating year on defense. It was a senior laden team that had super high expectations, expectations that honestly looked to be valid early in the year. As the offense worked to find its groove, the defense was responsible for most of the first four wins. The problem was that after some injuries in the USC game and, quite frankly, some head scratching coaching decisions, the defense began to unravel. The worst part was seeing the reaction of the players. Many senior players (some of which fell pray to the workout issues mentioned above) seemed frustrated and visibly started to show it.
We have no idea what the defense will be like this year. Most of the names we counted on in the past are gone. Some of the names we cringed at are also gone. I cannot imagine a world where OSU is better off without a guy like Dylan Wynn, but I can imagine a world where the defense as a whole plays at a much higher level and more consistent level. Our new defensive coaches are a proven commodity. The defenses at Utah have been solid to spectacular, the defensive lines at Wisconsin were stout and the secondaries that were coached by coach Odom were stingy and opportunistic. Every one of these coaches have had high levels of success at all levels of college football and are names people know, respect and, in some ways, fear.
We have all had the experience of seeing a rival hire a coach that we were sure was a huge upgrade over the last guy. I imagine that is how the conference feels about what is going on at OSU. Many people loved Riley, but they knew what they got with him too. This staff is different, accomplished and people outside of Corvallis are honestly still kind of shocked that they are here.
To cap off this really long post, I want to point to a constant theme I will have over the summer leading up to the first game. Things are different. You will not get practice reports from me because I am not allowed there. You will not hear the same quotes or see the same tendencies because these coaches are not the same as the one before them. Our ticket prices are going to go up because the expectation is that the product on the field will be much better. Our facilities will change and the culture we knew is gone. So I implore the handful of Beaver Nation members that made it this far into a truly verbose post to remember one thing:
Forget what you know about anyone or anything related to OSU because it is no longer valid.
All that is valid is what we see from today forward. For many of us, that is the most exciting news we have had in two years.