Monthly Archives: December 2015

What, Me Worry?

As we get farther into the coaching search to replace Defensive Coordinator Kalani Sitake, who recently took the head coaching job at BYU, every day seems to be excruciatingly long. The only news that has been made public is that Oregon State interviewed Utah State Defensive Coordinator Kevin Clune (per the fantastic site Football Scoop). While this move is at least something, it isn’t necessarily set-the-world on fire news. Clune may well be an amazing hire, but in the last 18 months, we have been used to giant splash hires like ripping the DC out of the hands of conference foe Utah. Pulling in a DC who has never coached in a Power 5 conference before is not the same.

But does it matter? Because Clune is the name we know has been interviewed, a quick google search of him shows that he was a Defensive Coordinator at Weber State from 2005 – 2008 and then again at Hawaii in 2014, and most recently, Utah State in 2015. He was a Graduate Assistant at Utah when Gary Andersen was there and was the Linebackers Coach when Andersen was at Utah State. Clune has improved the defenses everywhere he has been, and for all intents and purposes, seems like a solid if not spectacular coach. Should he be our next Defensive Coordinator, it would be his third such position in as many years. So it is not like Clune isn’t a known commodity, and apparently is a bit of a rising star in coaching circles.

So why am I not more excited?  Because I really want Wisconsin DC Dave Aranda. He would be the big splash hire we are getting used to here in Beaver Territory. I know that it is wishful thinking that we could steal another star coach from the Badgers, but it was my hope. Heck, I really hope we can get him and then get Clune as linebacker coach. What is wrong with that scenario?

Well, to be honest, I am putting OSU in to the type of coaching position that the big boys are in.  I am thinking that like an Alabama or USC or LSU, the Beavers can just poach whoever from wherever. Because we have amazing, nationally relevant coaches like Pat Casey, Scott Rueck, Wayne Tinkle, and Andersen that we can just grab whoever. The reality is that the OSU job has a lot of risk. I thought we would get six wins this year based on Andersen and his staff alone. We ended up with two. I thought this offseason would be a great one with our coaches getting a very impressive recruiting class rolling and positive feelings from the second half of the Civil War that this offense had signs of life in it carrying over. It felt like 2013. Remember that year?  Strong finish in the Civil War, with a stop or scoring a few seconds later, being the difference in that game. Where we went and beat Boise State in our bowl game, and had reason to hope for an even better season the next year?

Then our Offensive Coordinator left. Then our star receiver and defensive end declared for the NFL draft. Then our new OC was a disaster.Then our coaches lost the team and a slew of injuries hit… pushing us to a bowl-less season and giving us as much hope as a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest (thanks for that metaphor Coach Speck!) has. Then our coach left and we hired someone amazing — and hope began to spring eternal!

Until now.

If I am honest, right now is excruciating. While every topic on my favorite Beaver fan sites are a combo of doom, gloom, and infighting, I just want some news that will get us all excited and show that we are ready to pick up where we left off and dominate another offseason.

So whoever we hire, I am sure they will be good. Or at least a good interview. I am sure that it will help us pull in a few more recruits and solidify the staff. I am sure it will be someone Andersen really respects and thinks can take the next step in Beaver 2.0. You will just have to excuse me if I want something big. It won’t mean we will go out and win 10 games next year, but it will get my and other people’s attention. That would be nice after a rough year as a member of Beaver Nation.

What do you think? Am I crazy?

Go Beavs! (PRO)

Whirlwinds and Holiday Wishes

What the heck just happened?

While the season ended on a high note with a surprisingly exciting Civil War game in Eugene, most of us were probably glad to see the door close on one of the least successful seasons in memory for the Beavers. While I feel for the seniors who played their guts out (and for the players who went through all the changes without getting down or giving up, only to be told they may not be used much next year), I am not going to look back too fondly at the 2015 season. So I figured I could sit back and really focus on recruiting, and see where the future would hold.

WRONG! In a short week we saw Mt. BYU explode with news that former Beaver, Bronco Mendenhall, was taking the Virginia coaching job. While he packed his things and went to the other side of the country, the aftershocks of this decision seemed to find their epicenter in Corvallis. While we were celebrating the MOST active early JC signing day in history at OSU, we also had to deal with rumors and whispers that our own defensive coordinator, Kalani Sitake, potentially was going to be the new head coach for BYU.

It took very little time to realize that this was true, and the Beavers were going to be out their highly-respected defensive coach, as well as his great recruiting skills. Oh, and he was going to take our linebackers coach with him.

So, now OSU is in the wait and see mode again. With Coach Andersen tearing out cards of his Roladex at record pace, a decision on who will take over on D should be made sooner rather than later. As we saw last year, there is still a lot of time to bring in a big name and make a big impact on the recruiting trail.  If it is Coach Aranda from Wisconsin, we should maybe peruse their list of committed athletes.Because once the coaching shake up starts, it takes all the way through Letter of Intent day to calm down.

Beaver Nation will not get a rest this year in football.  The moment Sitake left, along with the already massive questions from last year, we have loaded a coordinator change to the mix.

Just one coordinator change, though?  No, gosh that would be silly.

As Andersen announced the new JC recruits signing with the Beavers, a few football minutes away from Coach Sitake taking the BYU job, Coach A let it slip that we also were going to see an offensive shake up new season. Dave Baldwin is going to work with inside receivers and we are going to have two co-coordinators on offense, Kevin McGiven and TJ Woods. Meanwhile, Coach Brennan is delegated to outside receivers and special teams.

Is everyone following this? Let’s recap:

  1. Great JC class signs
  2. New co-offensive coordinators Woods and McGiven announced
  3. Former OC Baldwin demoted to inside receivers coach
  4. Brennan reassigned to outside receivers and special teams coach.
  5. Sitake and Tuiaki take jobs at BYU
  6. TOCR writer’s head explodes.

So Merry Christmas Beaver Nation, you have been given the gift of excitement, confusion, nausea, hope, dashed hope, new hope again, and speculation from Santa. I am not sure if this means we were on the Naughty or Nice lists yet…

Go Beavs! (PRO)

Mid-Day Signees: Quick Thoughts

Six players signed with OSU last Wednesday, which marked the first day mid-year transfers could sign with their new schools. And with the Beavers needing a serious infusion of talent, their signings were welcome news. Here’s several thoughts about the class.

SURPRISE! Defensive lineman Phillip Napoleon and offensive lineman Gus Lavaka were pleasant additions because I am not sure anyone saw them signing with the Beavers. Both of them bring a lot of size as they are both listed as taller tan 6-3 and weighing more than 285 pounds. With defensive line being an area of need, expect Napolean to push for time this season. Lavaka is returning from a mission, so he might be more of a project, but you can teach 6-5, 350 pounds!

Getting a jump start. Two of the Beavers’ signees, quarterback Mason Moran and linebacker Shemar Smith, are planning to finish high school early and arrive for spring ball. This is huge, not just for their development, but for the OSU’s depth. With Nick Mitchell transferring, Moran will help with OSU’s depleted QB situation. Smith is promising addition to young group of linebackers, that also has lost some players — due to graduation and position switches. Moran, especially will benefit from enrolling early, as it sets him up to definitely be a favorite in 2017.

Where do they fit? Kyle White (RB) and Timmy Hernandez (WR) I am sure are fine players. But I am wondering how much of an impact they will make for the Beavers, due to depth at their positions. In the case of White, why bring him in if Tim Cook is as good as advertised? Barring transfers, the Beavers also return Chris Brown, Damien Haskins, and Deltron Sands to the mix. And receiver-wise, all three of OSU’s starters are back. Is Martinez strong enough to push them?

Not all roses. Losing Markell Simmons to TCU was a blow, as he would’ve provided help in the secondary. And with Kalani Sitake taking the BYU job, it seems like OSU’s once promising shot to land coveted 4-star DT Handsome Tanielu is gone. Tanielu would’ve easily been the cornerstone of this class, and perhaps the Beavers’ entire recruiting class. Replacing Kyle Peko was already a tall task, and DTs don’t grow on trees.

All in all, the Beavers inked a solid class that should be able to help them now and later on… If I was betting man, Napoleon will make the biggest impact right away. Looking ahead, again I can’t stress how huge it is for Moran to be here this spring. What did you think of the Beavers’ mid-year signing class?

Go Beavs! And Merry Christmas to you and your families!0

Predicting Pac-12 Play

The Beavers concluded non-conference play with a 82-61 win over Quinnipiac on Monday night to improve to 10-2 this season. By all means it was a successful 12-game stretch for them, with their only losses coming to Valparaiso and Kansas, both of which should be tournament teams (If Kansas plays like they did in the second half against OSU, they should be national champion contenders).

Hopefully, the momentum carries over to Pac-12 play, because unfortunately, it could be a tough season for the Beavers. While they’ve increased their talent level, I think they are still lagging in athleticism. And the Pac-12 is just loaded with great athletes. So I worry about the Beavers being able to keep up with a lot of their conference foes, especially on defense. The Tulsa game exposed OSU in those areas.

With those concerns in mind, I looked at the Beavers’ Pac-12 schedule and tried to do some forecasting. Bear in mind, I went super conservative here for two reasons: I am a former journalist and still haven’t got that entire “always be objective” thing out of the way, and well, being a Beavers fan has exposed me to a lot disappointment.

Jan. 3: Oregon L
Jan. 6: Stanford W
Jan. 9: Cal L
Jan. 13: @ Colorado L
Jan. 17: @ Utah L
Jan. 20: UCLA L
Jan. 24: USC W
Jan. 28: @ ASU W
Jan. 30: @ Arizona L
Feb. 4: Utah L
Feb. 6: Colorado W
Feb. 11: @ Stanford W
Feb. 13: @ Cal L
Feb. 20: @Oregon L
Feb. 24: Washington W
Feb. 26: WSU: W
March 2: @ USC: W
March 5: @ UCLA L

So that’s eight Pac-12 wins, which means the Beavers would finish with  17 wins, the same as last season, and unfortunately, not enough to get invited to the dance. The harsh reality is the Pac-12 is tough, just about every year. Even if the Beavers can squeak out three more wins than I think they will, there’s still no guarantees that they get in. The good news is the future is bright and this season, no matter what happens, will set the foundation!

Go Beavs. (RW)

Thoughts on Sitake

After a drama-filled week, BYU finally announced that Beavers defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake was the man to replace Bronco Mendenhall, who pulled the “Mike” Riley” of the coaching carasel season by taking the Virginia job. Rumor has it, that Sitake is taking OSU linebackers coach Ilaisa Tuiaki  with him to Provo.

Here’s some quick thought’s about Sitake’s depature.

  • “No Brainer” Situation. Those belittling Sitake’s decision to leave are delusional. This was an opportunity to return to his alma mater as its head coach at the age of 40 — and while BYU might not hold the prestige it used to, it’s still a pretty big program. This is likely his dream job. It’s not like Sitake is leaving for a rinky-dink school. If he can get them going, with their tradition and donor base, the Cougars could return to prominence pretty quick.
  • Did it have to be so soon? Hiring Sitake away from Utah was a major coup for Coach Andersen. Sitake is considered a rising star and his 2014 Utah team led the nation in sacks. You have to imagine then, that Andersen knew Sitake might not be at OSU long term. But it sucks it was one season. That’s hardly enough get situtated, much less get your players and system in place. I think most Beaver fans were hoping for three to five years.
  • An honest question. I might receive some backlash for this, but maybe Sitake isn’t all that he’s made out to be. I know the cupboard was apparently left “bare” and injuries did play a role this past season, but let’s not kid ourselves, the Beavers were downright awful at times, and that UCLA game, YUCK. Isn’t the mark of a great coach being able to adapt and make adjustments? As a result, I am not sure what to think of Sitake after the 2015 season…
  • Next up please. Sitake was being paid very well at OSU, so Andersen should think big with this hire, whether it’s Dave Aranda, Clancy Pendergrast, etc. While losing Sitake hurts, the Beavers should be able to land someone that’s just as exciting and well-regarded, and probably more experienced. What I don’t want to see happen is a quick promotion from within. That’s the kind of mindset that keeps the status quo, instead of trying to move forward.

So, what are your thoughts about Sitake? Who’s on your short list to replace him? Go Beavs! (RW)

 

OSU Hoops: First Impressions

The Beavers are off to a strong start this season with a 6-1 record and wins over Iona and Nevada. They face their stiffest test to date, and arguably all season, when they take on No. 2 Kansas on Saturday. Here’s some quick thoughts so far about the 2015-16 squad.

The biggest surprise been Drew Eubanks, no question about it. Before Daniel Gomis and Jarmal Reid suffered injuries, I hoped the 6-11 freshman post from Reynolds High would redshirt because while he had upside, I thought it would take a season or two for him to develop that talent. Turns out he was more than ready. Has OSU ever had a big man as athletic as Eubanks? He runs the floor so well and crashes the offensive boards relentlessly. Once he develops a post move and increases his defensive awareness, watch out! An added bonus, he can shoot free throws.

Speaking of freshmen, all of them bring something valuable to the Beavers already. Tres Tinkle is aggressive at both ends of the floor. Stevie Thompson is as pure of a shooter as I’ve seen during my years as a Beavers fan. Gligorije Rakocevic is a smart player who clogs the middle… and then there’s Derrick Bruce. He might not put up the numbers that Eubanks, Thompson, and Tinkle are, but I think he’s making just as big of an impact with his speed and ball handing skills.

Remember when getting the ball across mid-court was always an adventure for the Beavers in recent seasons? That’s not the case anymore because of Bruce. He breaks the press with ease. Some might not like how much he dribbles, but you know what? He can get away with it because he’s that good. As he builds his strength and experience, Bruce will turn into an even bigger asset for the Beavers. It’s easily to see why some pundits thought Bruce was a steal.

Combine all the freshmen with holdovers such as Gary Payton II, Langston Morris-Walker, Malcolm Duvivier, and Olaf Schaftenaar, and the Beavers have so much depth (and talent) compared to last season. And once Gomis returns from his injury the Beavers will have even more options to throw at teams. It will be interesting to see how Coach Tinkle manages all the minutes. But it’s a good problem to have, as it will be nice to be able to give Eubanks and Schaft more rest.

Having more playmakers has taken pressure off Payton II, Duviver, and Morris-Walker to have to create opportunities on offense. They can let the shots come to them more, unlike last season in which they often had to force things. Morris-Walker especially seems to be benefiting from the infusion of talent as he’s getting a lot of wide open looks.

The return of Gomis should help shore up what I think is the Beavers’ biggest weakness right now: interior defense. He, alone, should improve the defensive positioning. He’s pretty aware and active on defensive, which helps makes up for his offensive limitations. I am hoping him and Eubanks will complement each other down low, and disrupt more shot attempts.

The thing is once this squad is fully healthy, and develops its chemistry, they will be tough. They have playmakers, can shoot, and are athletic. But the key is to get better defensively. They must communicate and trust each other more on that end of the floor. But they already are a ton of fun to watch.

And last but not least, Payton II is simply amazing. You never know when he’s going to penetrate a passing lane out of nowhere, swipe the ball, fly down the court, and slam one home. Even when his shot’s not falling, he impacts games so much. And my favorite thing about him so far this season? He’s setting up teammates on the break so well. He’s the ultimate team player. It’s hard to believe he was a JUCO player. Talk about the ultimate late bloomer.

A side benefit of Payton II being a Beaver? It’s gotten Gary Payton back to Gill and invested in the program. It’s so cool seeing OSU’s best player ever sitting courtside at so many games. So wouldn’t it be great if his son could lead the Beavers to the dance? After all, the elder Payton was on the last OSU squad to make it… That would be the perfecting ending to what’s shaping up to be an exciting season!

Hey, where did everybody go?

As many of you may have noticed, the last few weeks have not been super active on our blog.  Raju and I are super busy with a lot of different things and unfortunately the blog is going to suffer a smidgen longer.  On the bright side, one of the things I am working on is our new design.  Hopefully it will be ready before Spring ball next year, depending on my life interruptions.

Anyway, Raju has a great write up coming up tomorrow, but I just wanted you all to know that this blog wasn’t abandoned.  Just slightly hibernating because life is crazy right now.

Go Beavs (PRO)

A few quick thoughts on the Civil War and 2016

Here are a few thoughts I have running around about the final game and next year:

  1. The Civil War:
    I will admit it, I was expecting a blow out.  Honestly I am very happy for how entertaining the game was and really just happy for the players that made it through the gauntlet of this seismic shift in philosophy and in the program.

    I am especially proud of players like Kyle Peko who made the most of their one year, even as the rest of the team crumbled at times. Or a player like Kendal Hill, who made constant strides all year long and ended by showing some real speed tracking down Taj Griffin on a sweep. I also am proud of guys like Marcus McMaryion who kept his head in the game despite not getting as fair of a shot as many other players to claim the starting job.

    Through it all, it is still another loss, and another loss to the ducks.  I am not going to pretend that doesn’t suck.  The thing that struck me as I was leaving was this:  This will be the worst it gets for OSU.  We came in with 57 players, tons of back-ups and a bunch of guys that may never wear the uniform again, despite retaining eligibility to do so.  And this team came within ten points of winning. At Autzen.  With the full strength ducks riding a then 5 game winning streak.

    I hope they enjoy it, because that was probably the end of the streak.

  2. 2016 and Beyond:
    it is hard to separate ourselves emotionally from the game.  Raju and I go back and forth about this year and about our expectations and how we sometimes feel kind of hopeless.  Was this what we wanted?  Was Andersen really worth his billing?  Are we on our way up when everything feels like it is going down?

    The Civil War gave us a boost, but that was similar to the boost we felt in 2012.  Where does reality lie in all of this?  Well, here is the deal:

    Yes, this is what we wanted.

    It feels terrible, but as players we love and have rooted for are packing their stuff out of their locker for the last time, some to graduation, some because they were told they might need to look elsewhere, or some because they just don’t want to do it anymore, we are left with a system, a vision and a team that is relatively untainted by compromise.  We have seen some players leave early that would have been good for a few extra good plays. We have seen the sadness in parents eyes when their child is taken out of the game never to return all year and we have seen the disappointment in the look of the team as they trudge out after a bad play as if they are stranded in the middle of the Movie Ground Hogs day and they just realized that they cannot leave.

    Not until the show is over.

    So as we prepare for next year, as the coaches try and keep all the pieces of what promises to be the best class in school history (since 2002 when Rivals started keeping records) and as players start to evaluate what they need to work on to be better next year, we are left with a new start.  This team, come fall camp, will most likely have over 50 players on it that have known no other coach at OSU than Gary Andersen.  They are players picked by him and hist staff to achieve what those coaches desire in players.  They are the right parts for the job.  The right fit. Most likely all four of our QB’s (with the loss of Mitchell) will have had more time with McGiven and Baldwin than Riley and Langsdorf/Garrett.

    We will have one more off season with Coach Simon to get physically where we need to be and we will have players that have a chance to work on what they know is really their biggest hurdles.  Because they have film to prove it.

    So as I finish this eternal blog post, that is meandering and repetitious, I end it with this.  Right now, today, we are better off than we were at the end of the season in 2014.  We have a unified direction from coaches we know, we have a vision of what our team will look like and we have the pieces coming in to make it a reality.  Come September first, when we step on the turf of TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we will know far more about what to expect from our team that they will from theirs.  And I am more than OK with that.

Drumroll, please… Here are your 2015 MVPS!

To say the 2015 season was rough for the Beavers is a gross understatement. But even amongst 10 losses, there were bright spots. In the spirit of recognizing that, here’s the Official Candy Report’s MVPs for the season.

Offensive MVP. Josh Mitchell. The senior center helped anchor a unit that was beset by injuries. Despite all the shuffling that occurred, the line only allowed 19 sacks. The Beavers averaged 4.8 yards per carry this season, which wasn’t bad considering their struggles in recent years. More than that, Mitchell provided valuable leadership and toughness. He set a great example for the younger linemen, which bodes well for next season.

Defensive MVP: Kyle Peko. The JUCO transfer proved he was worth the wait during his one season. He was a disruptive force in the middle who commanded double teams. Due to the line’s struggles on the outside, Peko’s performance often was overlooked. But he made an impact just about every down, being the inside presence the Beavers lacked in recent years. His late season performance likely earned him a much-deserved shot at the next level.

Coaching MVP: TJ Woods. The job Woods did with a unit that suffered injuries (Gavin Andrews, Sean Harlow) from start to finish was impressive. Despite all the new faces who made their debuts, the Beavers’ line was solid throughout the season. With Andrews back, transfer Brandon Kearsley eligible to play, and Blake Brandel coming off a redhirt, the line might not only be a strength, but also a deep position for the Beavers next season.

Do you agree with my picks? If not, who would your team MVPs be? Go Beavs! (RW)