Monthly Archives: June 2016

Who do you trust?

I have been struggling with something lately.  It is an unusual place for Orangey McOrange Pants to find himself, as someone that saw some good in Beaver Football from basically Kragthorpe on. It wasn’t always universal and it wasn’t always strong, but I always kind of trusted my assessments of the coaching staff, even before I really knew what I was talking about.  I always thought Kraghorpe needed just a bit better athlete and he could have done some damage at OSU.  I always thought that Pettibone just needed the offensive line and QB to run his offense. The injury to Tim Alexander against USC really crushed that team because he was the guy (and showing it) that could get it done for them.  Defensively they were there.

With Riley and Erickson, I knew we were always in it.  I had seen enough of both of them to know that they could get players, that they could evaluate talent, that they could develop talent and that they were going to be better than whatever you saw on paper.  More often than not, what was on paper was scary, yet they won a lot of games for Oregon State.

So with Andersen, I just instantly trusted him because of his reputation.  The three things I would attach to my opinion of Gary were recruiting acumen, defense and Intensity.  Wherever I read about him, I read about players loving him, about organized coaching systems and relentless recruiting. So I figured we would be fine with him and even predicted 5-6 wins last year, mostly because I thought he could do a lot with the offensive line talent we had (and because Coach Woods had crushed it in Wisconsin with similar talent).

Since then, things have changed. I have seen a lot and scratched my head a lot and been impressed a lot.  I feel like the three pillars of Gary Andersen that I felt coming in were his strengths have proven out. His players love him, he is relentless in recruiting and his whole organization is not only huge (31 staff members versus 20 for Riley) but a unified and efficient machine.  The thing is, if I am being honest, i didn’t really see the coaching or development aspect of his staff last year.  While there were tons of injuries and a modicum of internal turmoil and purging that needed to happen, I was left scratching my head on some of their decisions on personnel, on play calling and how the team just didn’t seem to improve, even individually.  Some will look at the duck game and say that was a huge improvement, but was it? I mean that was against the worst defense this side of Texas Tech and their specialty was the second half defensive melt down (see most of their games last year).

So now I find myself at a quandary.  it has been only one year and sheesh, I should get over myself right?  The thing is, i can’t.  Without the trust in their ability to develop talent and manage the game and make solid personnel decisions, i am kind of at a loss. I just have this kind of negative tint to how I view things.  Are the recruits we are getting going to be good enough for us to win in the Pac 12 if they are not going to be developed well enough or put into position to win? Are we going to be able to keep some of the position coaches we have if things go south in 2016?  Is the OSU job just too hard for coaches that don’t have a schtick that separates us from the rest?  Right now I am seeing a lot athletes with Beaver offers go elsewhere. Are we going to be constantly fighting the guys we initially wanted on Saturdays?

With coaches like Peterson, Leach and Shaw in the North alone, are we going to be able to get wins against them with less than stellar coaching?  Even Dykes has shown constant improvement, and that is a good place to start.  He cam into a Cal situation very similar to ours.  A program in disarray and with a mass exodus of players.  He promptly went out and won just one game in 2013, but then used a 4-1 start to go 5-7 and build some momentum. In that 5-7 campaign, they lost one game on a last second Hail Mary to Arizona (49-45).  In his third year the Dykes led Bears went 8-5 and had multiple draft picks and all conference players including the number 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

So are we going to be like Cal this year?  I am not sure.  Sonny Dykes has a proven offensive system that puts up tons of points. He is in a hotbed of talent at a school with an amazing academic reputation.  Dykes also inherited an amazing offensive arsenal with Lawler, Treggs, Goff and many others. Can OSU replicate that style of success without those advantages?  I am not sure.

With all of this in mind, i have decided to be Elsa and let it go.  To abandon my worries and fears and recognize that I cannot trust the coaches because I don’t know them yet. I don’t know how they handle adversity, how they prepare players and what they can do with their own, supposedly hand picked talent.  6pm on September 1st I will be able to truly start forming my opinion of this staff.  Whatever tsunami of terrible that washed over the team last year has passed and this year there is really no excuse to not see a good bit of improvement.  Two years of training, working, familiarizing and building of this team should show in the play on the field.

Just like any new relationship, I have to give it time to build that trust.  Just like every relationship, I cannot put too much stock in what other people say, but form my opinion with my own interactions with that person.  I cannot look at Andersen’s past and use that because each one of those coaching jobs were with another team with different needs, hurdles and advantages and staff. We had some rocky first few dates last year, now I am looking at going steady and I have to make sure I trust this staff enough to take this step because the implications will last for at least three or four years.

I mean, i am a precious flower after all.

What do you think?  Am I crazy?  Lonely? Both?

Go Beavs (PRO)

OOC Spotlight: Arizona State

This summer, I wanted to review some of the top out-of-conference games in the Pac-12 and what they mean for the involved teams. I am not looking at necessarily the biggest opponent games, but more the ones that will could show what a team’s trajectory might be.

Arizona State (6-7 in 2015):

vs Texas Tech Red Raiders
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
Saturday, Sep. 10

Opponent at a Glance:
Big 12 Conference
7-6 in 2015 (ADVOCARE V100 TEXAS BOWL)

Strengths:
When you talk Texas Tech, their strength is obvious. They are going to throw a ton and put up points.  The Red Raiders posted over 50 points 6 times last year, and over 60 three times.  Their lowest output was 26 points and they only scored under 35 points 4 times.  Back is dynamic dual threat QB Patrick Mahomes and not much else.  Texas Tech will be rebuilding at running back, offensive line and replacing their best receiver.  Still, Kliff Kingsbury is the Janis from Accounting of coaches and just doesn’t give a crap. He will throw it. A lot. And they will score points.  Graham is known as a defensive guru, calling the defense himself.  As we have seen sometimes (maybe when he is successful at stealing signs) the Satans will befuddle and stymie offenses.  Other times, they will gamble and lose, constantly.  If the game they had last year against the miserable school from Eugene, is any indication, a high octane passing attack is not their forte.

Weakness:
Where do I start?  They are rebuilding a the secondary and defensive line of a miserable defense. The Red Raiders are not going to stop anyone any time soon. Remember those 50+ point games I talked about in strengths? Two of those were losses (a 55-52 laugh fest against TCU and 70-53 apparent basketball game against Oklahoma State).  Arizona State should score.  A lot.  In one of their games last year (a 63-35 loss against Baylor) they gave up an average of 10 yards per play.  PER PLAY!  Arizona State may score every single time they have the ball.  But so might the Under Armor ruined Red Raiders.  This game could literally be decided by the coin toss.

What this game means for the rest of the season?
ASU always gets a lot of press coming into the season. With a new QB and a new OC and a bunch of changes to their team, I am suspect that they will improve much on the previous year. I also don’t like Todd Graham and think his defense is goofy and borderline dirty.  I am also always wrong about him.  The thing with Graham is he is a no BS type coach, which is great when you win.  His schtick will get old in losses much the way Mike Stoops did across the state at UA.  If ASU beats Texas Tech, a decent, Power 5 conference team, then I think they can definitely make some waves and be a bowl team.

If they lose this game, I worry about them.  When you are that reckless on defense, the league starts to get to know you and how you operate.  I think a loss to Texas Tech and a reasonably tough conference schedule could keep them out of bowl contention. if that happens, they will not probably retain Graham next year either by choice or by his own decision.

The Texas Tech game won’t cost anyone their job, but it is a bad indicator as to where they will be as the season progresses I am not sure they will get better. To me, this is a rubber meets the road year for this ASU staff.

Also, this:

asugrads

My Offensive Line Fears: Fact or Fantasy

As you all know too well, I am very attached to the ‘Big Uglies’ that patrol ythe offensive side of what is lovingly referred to as the trenches.  I spend a lot of time looking at recruiting film, game film and reading stories about linemen and their evolution through the years. So for me, living through the recruiting of 2010 – 2011, it made me afraid.  Very afraid.

And I see it again now.

Of course I should post a disclaimer that I am kind of chicken little when it comes to this stuff and that it is only late June. So take this worth a grain of salt, but I am concerned.  And here is why:

In 2010, we took exactly one lineman.  His name was Roman Sapolu and he was a great player and probably better person for the Beavers. His signing was after the Beavers signed 5 offensive linemen in 2009. In 2011, the Beavers got 3 offensive linemen, one was even a 4* flip from UCLA.  Unfortunately, both he and Justin Addie dealt with a series of injuries that cost them their careers at Oregon State.  In addition, Akeem Gonzalez moved to the defensive side of team, leaving just one lineman for a two year stretch that ever produced for Oregon State.

This meant that in 2013, when three linemen went down in the first few weeks, redshirt freshmen Grant Bays, Josh Mitchell and Gavin Andrews were asked to step up.  While those guys ended up being amazing for us, there were struggles early and the offense, though prolific through the air, could never get it going on the ground. Now imagine if in 2013, OSU was going into that season without Cooks, Mannion or Mullaney. That would have been a train wreck.

So where are we?  In 2015 we got three high school linemen, Blake Brandel, Miki Fafita and Zach Lucas.  Lucas has since retired, so there are only two remaining players from that class.  Last year, the only high school offensive line man we got was Gus Lavaka.  I love Gus, but that is three players in two classes that will be able to play in 2018 when most everyone else will be gone. Those three players will be in the 2 deep no mater what.

So this year we have Fabian Kratz, who has a ton of upside, and then currently no one.  For me, it isn’t just about the recruiting game or stars or anything like that. It is the reality that in 2018, the Beavers will most likely have redshirt freshmen in their two deep.  This class may be asked to start after just one year of practice.  If that is the case, we need the best possible players we can get.  We need guys that can make an instant impact and push for playing time from day one.  Kratz may be that guy, I don’t know.  And whoever we get will get a year to get better.  But if we don’t get at least 4 quality linemen, and I would feel better with 5, then we are looking at a 2018 with a new QB, new receivers, and 3 new starters on the offensive line (potentially) and that is scary.

At least for me.

On the bright side, that also means that anyone that comes to OSU this year will get a shot to start before they can legally vote.  And playing time is a huge seller for talent.

What do you think? Am I crazy?

Go Beavs (PRO)

The Wild and Wacky World of Recruiting

As many of you know, i am a huge fan of the art of recruiting.  Being on the sidelines for most of it, all I have to go on are the recruiting resources available.  Whether it is reading the latest recruiting reports at BeaverBlitz, or perusing other recruiting sites for other market information, I am always amazed at how much info is out there, but also at how unreliable it is.

Today, Oregon State welcomed 3 new commits.  Isaiah Miller, a fast, powerful and elusive running back from Baldwin, FL (a town of 2000+ people) was the first to commit.  His film is impressive, looking every bit as good as any back OSU has gotten in the last 4 or 5 classes.

Then came two back to back commitments from Kaleb Hayes, a San Bernardino, CA defensive back (though his film is all QB) and defensive back Justin Gardner from Snellville, GA.

These players are under the radar talent with speed and agility that are ready to come in and compete for the Beavers.  But to look at the recruiting services, it is like they are ghosts.  In some cases it might be financial, and the cost of getting access to quality film can be tough. In other cases it might be that their coaches are not able to, or just not willing to promote their players and help them.  I have no idea, and the circumstances for players that run reported 4.4 40’s to get overlooked seem incredible, when all this information is at our finger tips.

Unfortunately, the problem with the services is that, like news and media and all the rest of the world, it is easier to get noticed if you live in an urban setting.  Just like it is easier for USC and UW to get recruits from big cities, big cities promote their own. In many cases, a lot of recruiting services have gone to holding camps to evaluate players.  I know Rivals does, but how much does that detract from actual film study?  Do players at camps get rated higher because you have actually seen them play?  Yes, yes they do. And that is natural.  But what happens is that players who are not able to find their way to Elite 11 or Openings or the 5 Star Challenge, are left to local camps, letters and word of mouth to get their name out there.

Fortunately for guys like Justin or Kaleb, Coach Andersen and his staff went to them and they felt that these players were going to help them win championships.  Some players will never get that.  Some will never see the light of day on a Power 5 campus or in the minds and notebooks of ‘recruitnik’ nerds like me. Which is too bad, because it sure if fun to cheer for the overlooked players like James Rodgers or Mike Hass.

Good fan, bad fan.

Lately, I’ve had lot of conversations with Beaver fans about the future of the program and this coming season, and there seem to be a few common fan I run across. In some cases, fans of one type will look at fans of another type and converse with them as if they are the worst possible fan ever. In other cases, one fan type might see the point of the other fan type, but feel if they can phrase their argument just right, they can convert them to their side of the fan force. Which most likely, they cannot. Like politics, ways of viewing a team or personnel or players is very difficult to change. Mostly because it means admitting that your view was wrong.

Below are the types of fans I’ve noticed as of late:

The Cheerleader:
This fan is the person that forecasts 12 wins every year and won’t bend on this until the scores of actual games forces them to. They believe wholeheartedly in everything the staff and program are doing, and feel like it is just a matter of time before the rest of the conference bows to their team. Even when coaches change, they feel that the new coach is the best thing ever, but also still love the past coach and now have two favorite teams. These fans tend to be amazing fans who are with their team, hell or high water. They also are impossible to argue with because in their minds no one works as hard, recruits as much or coaches as well as their guys.

The Skeptic:
These are fans that tend to come off as negative, and even as anti-fans, but usually are actually some of the biggest fans ever, and the thought of getting their hearts broken again really forces them to be sparse with their praise. They are the ones who are the first to notice bad patterns or trends, but also the last to buy into positive shifts. They are wait-and-see on everything and will not take any practice reports at face value, preferring to wait until they see it on the field in a game before they get excited. They also tend to be the fans who don’t enjoy victories because they are immediately worried about the next game, even if it is eight months away. These fans only value objectivity and will shun anything else, even though their own opinions may not be objective, or rational, in nature.

The Hater:
No one even knows why these people are fans. They are, in their own way, but they are the type of fans who have given up on their team and would rather poke fun at their school of choice. They are difficult to converse with because they always think their team sucks and other teams are amazing. Sometimes, they come across as a fan of another team with how much they idolize what that team has, but then when you chat with them more, you find out they have been season ticket holders to your team for 30 years, and are legacy fans from generations of students at that institution.

The Rational Observer:
These fans are necessary but super annoying.*  They rarely say anything on message boards or in group conversations, but when they do it is always super rational and usually spot on. They are the people who get asked questions on the internet and never respond until they have a clear and concise (and educated) response. These fans are rare, but many fans who are one of the other types often associate themselves with this one. They also are completely wrong. These fans also tend to have inside knowledge and connections within the program.

The Jerk:
These ones are tricky because they are hard to pin down. Are they excited about the future?  Are they bummed about the future? Do they even know what is going on? These are the people who will argue with you and over a 20-minute span take every side of the argument, and even when they hit the one that you agree with still talk in an argumentative tone as if you are still wrong. They are the ones who as kids were difficult to punish because if you tried to take something away from them they would just say, “Well, I don’t like that anyway” and totally ruin the consequence. They also will always get the last word, no matter how wrong they are.

The Know-It-All:
This one is difficult. They are good with stats, as long as  those stats promote their opinion. They can come across as The Rational Observer, except they are overly opinionated and are always talking. The amount of information they post is almost obscene and there is always an agenda. They will dump you in a barrage of ‘facts’ and words but may not actually have accuracy in either. They also are easily angered if challenged on their knowledge. The one saving grace is that many times they will give up a bit and just use the, “Well, then we will just have to agree to disagree.”

The thing is with all of these types of is that most people are a combo of these. They may be mostly Hater, but can also be 20% Rational Observer and 5% Know-It-All.  For me, I feel like it changes a lot. Under Riley I was probably mostly Cheerleader and Know-it-all, with a smidgeon of Jerk (some of you might find me more jerk than I associate myself with, but oh well.).  Under Andersen, I probably am 40% Skeptic, 30% Cheerleader and then the last 30% is a combo of all of the rest.  I will get into why Skeptic later, and why I am fully prepared to be totally wrong and love it.

The thing is, no matter where you are fall on this scale, and which fan you associate with (or others project you as associating with based on your behavior) there are three things that are true:

  1. You love your team
  2. You want them to win
  3. You probably hate their rivals way more than is socially comfortable.

That is why we bond together. You can be a Riley Guy, an Andersen Guy or neither or both. It doesn’t matter because being a fan means knowing, loving, or even just dealing with every type of fan out there. You can challenge an opinion, but never challenge their loyalty.  Those are fighting words.

So as we enter a season with a lot of unknowns, don’t worry too much about people who disagree with you, because we all have the same three core values: Go Beavs! Win them all! And FTD!

What kind of fan are you? Leave a comment and let us know!

Go Beavs (PRO)

* I am using the term annoying to mean, “Person who I am super jealous of because I wish I had their insight, patience and contacts.”

Recruiting Breakdown: June

As we roll into June, we finish an exciting May in Beaver football recruiting. To get a bearing on where we are at and some of our needs, I wanted to do a little breakdown. This is all just my opinion and not based on any inside information or coaching connection.  I base recruiting needs based on what the team will look like in two years.  Assuming most of the athletes will redshirt, the earliest we can expect them the 2017 class to contribute is their redshirt freshman year. This is not scientific, but just some gross generalizations.

Now, declarations aside, here is our roster in for the start of the 2018 season by numbers:

OFFENSE:
QB: 2
RB: 3
OWR: 7
IWR: 2
TE: 3
OT: 3
OG: 3
C: 1

DEFENSE:
DT/NT: 5
DE: 8
OLB: 9
ILB: 4
S: 7
CB: 6

Now these numbers are subject to change as some of these players will move around depending on fit or need and like most years, there will probably be a bit of attrition. But all things being equal, these numbers are about where we will be. As you can see, there are about 7 offensive linemen, 2 QB’s and only 2 inside wide receivers.  Those three offensive positions are set at most to be just 2 deep, and in the case of the offensive line, that is just 2 backups.

On defense, we have a lot of DE’s, DT’s and OLB’s to choose from. The only real area of concern might be ILB.  The 2016 class had a ton of defensive players in it and while some of the big signings didn’t make it in, there is at least a three deep across the line and at linebacker.

Considering that we can only sign 25 players in the Pac-12, below are the numbers I think we need to get for this class to cover for our weaknesses:

OFFENSE:
QB: 1
RB: 2
OWR: 2
IWR: 2
TE: 1
OT/OG: 3 (1)
C/OG: 2

DEFENSE:
DT/NT: 2
DE: 2
OLB: 1
ILB: 2 (1)
S: 2
CB: 3

The bold numbers mean that position is full of commitments. The parentheses is the number of commitments for that position.

For this class to be a success, it is not just going to be about numbers or ranking.  A class that has 2 offensive linemen and a bunch of defensive players will not be a good fit.  Another class with seven or eight JC players will just displace the burden to next year.

Right now, OSU has two offensive line targets that are announcing in the next few days.  4* OT Alex Forsyth from West Linn will announce on June 11th and 3* OT Cody Sheer from Sheldon High School will announce on July 5th. Those would be two key pieces to the recruiting puzzle for Oregon State.  Forsyth has been considered a heavy duck lean and there are rumors that he will be committing to the ducks on Friday.

There is a lot of time left and a lot of work to do, but right now the Beavers are chipping away at their needs player by player.  The key will be to keep what they have and continue to convince players that their best chance to be a part of something amazing is in Corvallis and at Oregon State University.

Go Beavs (PRO)

 

Big Recruiting Wins

Two weeks ago, I was worried as crap about Beaver recruiting. We were sitting with two recruits and none of them were “wow” names. That doesn’t mean that they are not going to be amazing or anything about what they will be like as Beavers. It is just the perception of an outsider who only has recruiting services and highlight films to go by.

While I still have my worries, they are position-specific. The past few days, many of those have been addressed  — with the verbals from Chandler, Arizona (Chandler High School) Sammie Stroughter-clone, Kolby Taylor, and the next Derrick Doggett in Sherwood, Oregon (Sherwood High School) David Morris. The Beavers also received a verbal from German exchange student, Fabian Kratz, an offensive tackle from Illinois. Throw in Quantino Allen from Florida two weeks ago and you have a huge upswing in speed, talent and recruits for this team.

The main point is that it shows the tenacity of our coaching staff, and that they are finding a way to sell a program that had very little to celebrate last year. In order to turn the program around, this staff needs to get the athletes to do it. To be able to recruit when things look down is a key component to building this team. Two months ago, I was feeling very hopeless about things. Today, I see a little bit of hope, not because the guys that they are signing are these 5-star media darlings, but because they are good players that will work hard and make the team better. All of which is what is needed to build a winner.

Banner Tuesday Propels 2017 Class Forward

A trio of 3-Stars provided OSU’s 2017 recruiting class a much-needed boost Tuesday.

David Morris, a LB from Sherwood, verbally committed to the Beavers early that morning, followed by Illinois OL Fabian Kratz in late afternoon. Kolby Taylor, a WR out of Beaver-friendly Chandler High in Arizona, pledged to OSU that evening to cap off a banner day for Gary Andersen and Co.

Their commitments increased OSU’s class to six so far, by far the most the program has secured before June 1. But beyond the numbers and rankings, the three signings gives Beaver Nation something to cheer about, especially in wake of Derrick Bruce leaving the hoops teams, 2017 commitment Xavier Davis getting in trouble, and the baseball team being snubbed from the NCAA tournament.

Morris is a stud who could push for playing time sooner rather than later. Plus, to beat out Cal and WSU for his services is a coup for the coaching staff. Morris also appears to be a standout person who I could see becoming a leader down the road for the Beavers. He’s arguably the second best defensive prospect this year in the state. Landing him is the first step toward Andersen’s goal of keeping in-state talent at home.

The Beavers have known about Taylor for awhile, due to the Chandler pipeline. And while he was overshadowed last season due to the likes of Chase Lucas, some say Taylor might be more polished and has greater upside. He’s also a high-character kid. At first glance, he reminds me of Sammie Stroughter. Not a burner, but can create in space after the catch for big gains. Also, he’s a returner like Stroughter was. I don’t think any Beavers fans would complain about having another Stroughter-type player!

Kratz is more of a wildcard. He’s only been playing football for a year. He’s got the size and mean streak to succeed. But he will need to work on his technique. I think it’s safe to say that he’s a project and should redshirt, with the hope being he could be starter his junior or senior years. The main thing is the Beavers need OL badly in this class, and if they can land some of their bigger targets, Kratz will be a nice piece, at the very least for depth.

It’s early, there’s a lot of work remaining, and it’s not over til LOI day (sometimes, even after that point), but Tuesday marked a huge step forward for the Beavers in recruiting and building for the future. Remember that, as the Beavers embark on what could be another tough season. Sometimes, it’s really about baby steps.

Go Beavs! (RW)