Oregon State, like all college football teams, kicks off summer camp this week as preparations begin in earnest for the season just ahead. And for the first time in a long time, camp will actually involve a camp, rather than just being a series of practices at the Beavers’ home facilities, with the players and coaches all in their own homes, and with family and friends each evening.
The Beavers will depart mid-week for Bend, and spend over a week housed at the Oregon State Central Oregon campus, and work out at Summit High School.
It used to be common place for pro teams to start pre-season preparations this way, and some colleges did it as well, though it was never as wide-spread at this level. As the use of modern training facilities, and the training aids that are computers and video systems, and medical treatment facilities and a complete nutritional center, that compose them became state of the art, the practicality of staying at your established, multi-million dollar facility so that you could actually maximize the benefits of them, these excursions to a remote site became far less common, though they are seeing some resurgence at both the professional and collegiate level.
High schools, generally bereft of anything resembling state of the art anything, have used the camp approach for years, and if anything, may be using it more than ever, as a way to get impressionable youngsters whose’ capacity for distraction is high, away from outside influences to some degree. Bonding and team building can be a benefit as well, but its mostly about focus.
It’s not surprising that a team that struggled with focus, at both the players and coaches’ level last season, would be interested in addressing those issues. And a system that is essentially an extension of the average high school’s schemes is a logical place to employ the approach.
The fact that the home locker room is still under reconstruction as a part of the Valley Football Center expansion and remodel made making the trip make sense as well.
If the team can figure out who they want to do what during this venture off campus, it could be worth it.
Last season, settling on a starting lineup, and deciding what scheme to use on an ongoing basis, never happened. The experimentation was still going on at the Civil War, and showed little sign of being settled during spring ball. And its a trial and error basis Coach Gary Andersen can’t afford to repeat.
Injuries played a part in that, ranging from the decision to redshirt offensive lineman Gavin Andrews before the season started, to the season ending injury to fellow o-lineman Sean Harlow against Utah, and even included the non-season ending, but still highly disruptive variety, such as losing cornerback Tristan DeCoud for 2 games + at mid-season.
But the offensive game plan never crystallized, and the defensive scheme was an endless series of attempts to figure out how to play defense without a pass rush.
An uncertain turnstile for a depth chart at many positions, where many didn’t know if they would play series to series, much less game to game, and no one knew who would be beside them, meant timing and communications were constantly strained, and it showed up on the field when opponents were both physically and mentally a step ahead far more often than not.
In his second season, Oregon State’s success will probably depend on Andersen settling on a lineup, and a scheme, early on, and sticking to it, as much as anything.
Unfortunately, we won’t likely know if that’s happened until early October.
Next Saturday will be the first chance for the public to actually apply the eye test, but the practice at Summit will not be in pads (too early in the process for full contact).
After the team returns to Corvallis, there will be a scrimmage Friday, Aug. 12. But it will begin at 5 PM, just as most people are getting off work in some location other than at Reser Stadium.
The only other opportunity for a look currently scheduled will be the following Thursday, at 10 AM, in the middle of the work day and week.
The season opener will be a road trip to Minnesota on a week night, one most members of Beaver Nation will have to watch on the B1G Ten network. It will then be 16 more days before the home opener, but that will be against Idaho State, and nothing that happens that afternoon can be assumed to be telling about anything to come.
Not until the following week against Boise State, and then in the conference opener on the road in Boulder on Oct. 1, will we be sure of what we are seeing.
After last year’s series of disasters (9 of the 10 losses were by double digits, and most of them blowouts), its understandable that Andersen wants as few eyeballs on the program as possible, as those who have made an investment might just question what they see, and what their investment is returning, vs. what they are being told.
The hope is the camp experience will solidify a plan, and a rotation, going forward, so that during the month that follows, that plan will become fine tuned by the time the toughest 10 game stretch in 64 days that Oregon State has probably ever faced in such a compressed window begins.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)