Monthly Archives: August 2016

Three Match-ups to Watch against Minnesota

As we get ready for the first game of the Beavers’ 2016 season, I wanted to take time to accent some of the biggest battles for the game against the Golden Gophers:

  1. Beaver Guards and Centers versus Minnesota’s Defensive Tackles:
    Minnesota returns some pretty athletic depth at defensive tackle.  The Beavers return two very experienced guards in Lauina and Andrews, but also break in a brand new center in Yanni Demogerontas. Minnesota has some of the same names from last year like Stephen Richardson and Skott Expe, but also have introduced JC DT Merrick Jackson who has been impressive in practice.  Minnesota is so stacked at DT that they are toying with some 3-4 formations to get more of their DT’s on the line of scrimmage and utilize their depth at linebacker to get pressure on the QB.

    Minnesota is going to try and put a lot of pressure on the interior three linemen of Oregon State and hope they can keep them from getting to the second level with their double teams.  Or even worse, that they can get penetration with one or two players on the inside and ruin the read option mesh for our run plays.  Andrews, Lauina and Demgerontas are going to be asked to not just stop them, but move them and get them to pick a side.  Hopefully that side is their back side five yards down the field.

  2. Darrel Garretson vs the Minnesota Secondary:
    While Minnesota graduated two NFL draft picks in their secondary, they do return two of their top tacklers in the secondary and two corners that have game experience.  Currently 3 members of their secondary are on multiple award watch lists.  In addition, Minnesota has the most consecutive NFL draft picks in their secondary of any Division 1 school.  So their coaching is probably decent from technique to talent evaluation.

    On the flip side, Garretson should be playing catch with one of the deepest and most talented groups on OSU’s team right now.  Should the receivers be able to get open, how will Darrel do getting them the ball?  That is a huge question for the whole season, not just this week.  It is not going to be good enough to just improve on last year. This team will come at the Beavers and this secondary is a legit, Power 5 conference defense.  So we will see how well Garretson does. If he lights it up, it should be a great indicator of what our offense will look like this year.

  3. Tracy Claeys vs Gary Andersen
    Ask any Beaver or duck fan about the coach on the other team and you will most likely not hear nice things.  If Chip Kelly was coaching Minnesota, Beaver fans would have a different feel for the game.  Minnesota feels that way about Wisconsin.  Many in Minnesota remember the 2013 game for the West title that ended in a confrontation in the endzone during the presentation of the axe trophy.  While we don’t think much about it, and I am sure Coach Claeys isn’t putting a ton of stock in it, I also think that he will not be sad to come out and beat a Gary Andersen coached team.

    These two coaches respect each other a lot, which is why Coach Claeys is not about to overlook the Beavers because of what he saw last year.  In fact, he respects him so much, he actually had his players put the word ‘RESPECT’ on the helmets of the players they see as the biggest threats on the OSU team. This is not someone who is unfamiliar with what Andersen and his staff want to do at Oregon State.  They know it very well and are going to be as ready as they can be.

It is going to be a crazy season, and the first game is as wild as it gets.  We will see how the Beavers do on the road in a hostile environment.  If you want to get a good idea of what this season will be like, the first game is the perfect start!

Go Beavs!  Beat the Gophers! (PRO)

Sean Harlow Says Redshirt Season “Pretty Official”

The depth-chart for Oregon State’s season opener Thursday night at Minnesota is out (see page 11, the last page of the Game Notes), and there aren’t many surprises. That’s mostly good, as it means the Beavers are mostly healthy, but there is a notable absence.

Sean Harlow, who would be Oregon State’s starting left tackle in a perfect scenario, isn’t even on the 2/3 deep, which means red-shirt freshman Blake Brandel, who has taken the reps with the 1s all summer and fall, will get the start.

Harlow suffered a fractured ankle last year during the Colorado game, above, and needed 2 surgeries in the off-season, but was cleared the week of the beginning of summer camp, He’s only recently began doing much more than sideline work though, and today he said its “pretty official” he will red-shirt this season.

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What We Know, And What We Don’t Know, With One Week To Go

It’s down to one week until Oregon State starts the season at Minnesota. After a summer of speculation that’s run the gamut of expectations (with precious little substance to base any of them on), the venture into B1G Ten territory will tell us much more about how this fall will go than any number of rosy reports about how select players look against backups that we (hopefully) won’t see on any of the 11 Saturdays in a row to come shortly, or Thursday night for that matter.

We know Darell Garretson will be the Beavers’ quarterback, but we don’t know for sure who will play either tackle position next Thursday, or for how long, with Sean Harlow only beginning to work with the o-line again this week, Dustin Stanton having lost a lot of time to illness, and Will Hopkins already having had a concussion. Stanton and Hopkins are back at work as well, but behind in preparation time. That means we don’t know if Garretson will survive the Gopher onslaught intact.

We know that Brandon Arnold is back to work at safety, after missing time, which means Treston DeCoud and Dwayne Williams at corner, along with Arnold and Devin Chappell at safety, will be the starting secondary, and Jay Irvine will probably be the nickel back. But Williams and Irvine both missed time in summer camp, and so we don’t know how well they will have their timing and communication down, especially when some Gopher gets through the newly re-aligned 3-4 front to the Oregon State defense.

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Oregon State Scrimmage Beats Heat

Oregon State’s third and last public performance of the pre-season today was moved up an hour, to 9:30 AM, in order to beat the heat that is the current hotest heat wave of the summer in the mid-valley. The combination of the early hour, being on a work day, and the impending heat more befitting Tucson or Fresno kept attendance down, way down, the smallest of the season, or any other open practice in recent memory.

Those not present didn’t miss much however, as the 1s and most of the 2s were done well before practice officially ended. NFL teams are noted for not extending their starters in the last week before the season starts, and that was the feel for the practice Ryan Nall termed as “young guys day”. The difference though is its 2 weeks from tonight when the Beavers begin the season against the Gophers in Minnesota.

Those not participating at all of note included half the starting defensive backfield, with both Brandon Arnold and Dwayne Williams watching, as well as freshman Jay Irvine. Sean Harlow continued to not practice as well, making the prospect of Coach Andersen not playing him this season seem ever more likely.

There was more 1s vs 1s than we have seen previously though, and the defense brought good intensity, and got a couple of interceptions as well, They also gave up a touchdown to Hunter Jarmon on a twice tipped ball on a Hail-Mary drill too, though.

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3 Up and 3 Down (with a dash of zen)

As we get closer to the season starting, and as I get a bit more time on my hands following a very, very tough summer for personal reasons, the reports from the first two weeks of practice have shed some light on a few of my concerns for the season while also giving me a bit of perspective on the future of the program.

3 Up:
Here are three things that give me a bit more hope going into the season:

  1. Gavin Andrews:
    Sure, there is probably still a little concern from many about his durability, but he is playing now and playing well. The combo of Dustin Stanton and Gavin Andrews gives us in Beaver Nation a known commodity on the line.  With the status of Harlow looking cloudy, being able to point to half of our line and say that it is a legit, Pac-12 level offensive line is good. That is not to day that the rest of the line won’t do great, especially with 2 year starter Fred Lauina covering the left guard spot, but I can look at film of both Gavin and Dustin and say “Those guys can compete at this level.”

    Half a line is better than none, and between the three afore mentioned returning starters, there are some solid pieces we can work with.

  2. Defensive Line:
    Now again, we have just a few names that we can show in the Orange and Black from a year ago, but it is not just about who we have, but what they are going to be asked to do.  I still get irate at the Pac-12 refs that gave Stanford a first down when Sumner Houston drove the Cardinal lineman back, tossed him and brought the running back down short of the first down.  That single effort sticks in my mind as to the acumen that Sumner has.  Like Gavin above, Sumner is a legit Pac-12 player who has proved it against arguably the best line in the North.  Along with Baker Pritchard and Noke Tago, we have some players that have shown some signs of being ready to go in at this level.

    Of course there are a ton of new names as well, and we will have to factor their newness in.  The part that gets me excited is that we are not asking them to do things they cannot. We will have big, strong linemen that are going to be asked to occupy the offensive line. They don’t need to fly off the edge and sack the QB or even penetrate much at all. They need to take of the effort of the 5 offensive linemen, force them to stay in one spot and allow the linebackers and safeties to clean up the rest.  With an average of around 290lbs for our defensive tackles, nose tackles and defensive ends, we are talking about big boys.

  3. Weapons:
    If you have read any reports from this fall, you have heard about Seth Collins.  His acrobatic catches and play making ability has been documented well.  But we also have seen Paul Lucas and Ryan Nall do good things in conference play, as well as Jordan Villamin and Victor Bolden.  In fact, right now we have a lot of youth and new faces making waves, but most teams are going to have to account for 3 or four players every play. That is difficult to do and gives the Beavers a lot of options on offense. Something we didn’t really have last year, despite the similarity of names.

3 Down:
While there are positives or reasons for excitement, there are also questions that need to be answered. I don’t know how these will play out this season and honestly, they are mostly worries because they are wrapped in unknowns.  But after a few weeks of practice, I still have a few questions:

  1. What will center look like?
    I have not heard a lot of talk from the offensive line front this fall, but I have heard whispers of issues snapping the ball.  If linemen are not being talked about, that is usually a good sign, but with some of the struggles running the ball that have been reported, and with two new linemen at least taking the field for Minnesota (I just don’t see Harlow being able to make it) there are worries.
  2. What will the secondary look like?
    With the recent retirement of starter Gabe Ovgard and senior Cyril Noland-Lewis, the Beavers have lost two players with a multitude of Pac-12 experience.  While players like DeCoud are showing that they are ready to go, two players with lots of experience leaving the team brings up questions about depth and who will step in/up to fill their spots.
  3. Will the QB play be markedly better?
    For most of fall camp, we have never seen the 1’s vs 2’s on offense or defense.  This has been good for developing players like Seth Collins, who has been able to take a ton of reps against our best corners.  It has not been great for building confidence in the passing game, which has seen a lot of inconsistency in the the last scrimmage and a few observed practices.  A lot of that could be because players are still drinking from the fire hose a bit, or because of protection or just the grind of fall practice and the hottest part of the year. Regardless, the Beavers cannot point to absolutes under center, just hopes for what we will look like.  Again, the unknown is the issue, not the potential.

Finally, the Zen:
Rome wasn’t build in a day.  This year is almost more of a rebuilding process than last year because this is when the names of the future are going to be asked to step in.  This is not the great purge of 2015 with the bumps and hurdles of a coaching transition of this magnitude. This is the first step in getting the players this staff has picked to play their first snaps.  While there are still a ton of holdovers from the Riley era, we are starting to see less and less, and after this year, the starters will mostly be from the Andersen era.  While many say they just want to see progress, there is a chance we won’t.  The conference is getting better and we just got a heck of a lot younger.  For much or our two deep, August 4th was their first action with Oregon State Football.  One whole position group on defense is entirely true freshmen.

My point is, I hope to always see improvement, but I can see a scenario where we win 5 games and one where we win 1.  Neither of these are indicative, in my mind, to the direction this staff is going.  They are indicative of the really huge undertaking they have partaken by flushing and rebooting the program, and it is indicative of how difficult our conference is from top to bottom.  Just getting a bit better than the bottom of the conference and working our way up is not easy because even the bottom of our conference is better than the middle of most of the other conferences in the country. Colorado, Cal, Arizona, Utah and Washington State would finish far higher in the Big 12, SEC and ACC.  They would do just as well or slightly better in the Big Ten as well. Instead, we have to deal with programs that are on the rise while we are trying to out pace them on the way up.

This year may not be great, and fans need to realize that. It may be a huge step forward and fans need to be ready to support the future if they are.  We could be a 5 win team or more if the coaches are developing their talent at the rate we hope.  But even if it is not, we need to be ready for that, to be prepared to support this process because it is not a quick fix. It is not just painting your guest room. it is tearing it down to the studs, adding a master bath and updating the wiring before adding drywall and paint and new furniture and fixtures.  That takes time and we need to be ok with that because if the finished product looks like the plans, a few rough years will be worth it.

Gary Andersen Has Some Decisions To Make

(And They Aren’t Going To Be Easy)

As Oregon State heads into the second half of summer preparations, Head Coach Gary Andersen is already having to look at some serious decisions that will have to be made, and probably sooner than later.

They are the kind that are hard in part because they are the kind that carry implications far beyond just the player involved, and can even carry from one year to the next, in terms of the overall fortunes of the team and all those concerned with it.

The biggest decision looming is whether or not to red-shirt offensive lineman Sean Harlow. Harlow, who is returning from a broken ankle last season, has been cleared to play, and has demonstrated he’s physically capable to do so. But whether he can be back to his best by the start of the season is more uncertain.

Andersen indicated back on media day that sitting Harlow for the season was a possibility, and he sat one of his team captains out of last Friday’s scrimmage.

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Oregon State Sweats Out Scrimmage

The Oregon State football team has returned home to Reser Stadium, after spending the first week of summer camp in Bend, and showed Beaver fans where they stand in tonight’s scrimmage. And it was a warm one, as the Beavers and a sparse (compared to the turnout last Saturday in Bend) smattering of Beaver Nation sweated out the scrimmage on what turned out to be the hottest day so far this summer.

 

The first impression I took away from the evening’s efforts is, just like last year, Seth Collins in the best player on the team. And no one is in second place.

 

Coach Gary Andersen’s theme is “Players make plays,” and that’s what Collins does. He had a couple of key catches tonight, the one above to keep a drive alive, and another at the expense of Trestan Decoud that set up a score.

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Oregon State Announces Gill Coliseum Upgrades

Oregon State today announced some upgrades to Gill Coliseum and Ralph Miller Court that will greet basketball fans come November.

Private funding of approximately $2 million will change what fans see, hear, and feel. The success of the hoops teams the last 2 years, capped by Wayne Tinkle’s men’s team returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 26 years, and Scott Rueck’s women’s team reaching the Final Four, and the resulting uptick in attendance for both (attendance for men’s games reached an all-time low at Gill in Craig Robinson’s final season) prompted the improvements.

“At no time has the excitement about our teams that compete in Gill Coliseum been higher; now is the time to capitalize and move forward in the investment in our programs,” Vice President/Director of Athletics Todd Stansbury said. “The quality of our game-day experience for our great fans, particularly the Beaver Dam, to the student-athletes is an emphasis. It is vitally important that we showcase Oregon State Athletics in the best way possible to the nation and that is why I’m excited to announce our continued efforts to transform Gill Coliseum.”

The University released the above generated image to illustrate the visual effects of the changes, which will flip the logo, and the location of the sideline television cameras. This will put the usually well filled and enthusiastic Beaver Dam student section in the background for television, instead of the often half empty, and sometimes half asleep, season ticket section behind the team benches and scorer’s table.

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Darell Garretson

Oregon State Hits The Field In Bend

Oregon State has kicked off their preparations for the 2016 football season. The Beavers took the field today at Summit High School in Bend, OR, just a few blocks from the Central Oregon CC/Oregon State Cascades campus (until the expansion of the OSU facility is completed)  where they are staying until late next week. The true camp approach comes as work continues on the remodel and expansion of the Valley Football Center and northwest end zone of Reser Stadium, including the locker rooms.

 

Next Friday evening’s open scrimmage, which will be back at Reser, starting at 5 PM, will tell us much more about the team, but today served to set a starting point; something to make comparisons with going forward, for coaches and the interested members of Beaver Nation (and there were hundreds of them in Bend, at least until the heat began to increase and the shade shrink!) alike.

 

The first and main impressions I took from today was that the offense already has an identity, and for the most part, a clear depth chart and rotation of players, at least the 1s and 2s. This is something Oregon State struggled to establish all season last year.

 

The Garretson And McGiven Show

 

We knew this would be Darell Garretson’s team, and the transfer quarterback is clearly both the #1 and #2 guy at the position. But I was also interested to see that QB coach and now co-offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven is now clearly running the offense. That wasn’t readily apparent last spring, but over the summer, the transition has been made.

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Fall Camp Day! Fall Camp Day!

This morning I was reminded of the iconic scene from Adam Sandler’s first hit movie, Billy Madison. In that movie, slacker moron Billy Madison finds out what day it is, and realizes it is the day he’s to receive his adult literature by mail. In his child-like excitement, he ran to the mailbox yelling, “Nudie Magazine Day! Nudie Magazine Day!” while he rushed to obtain his unfortunate variety of depravity. I feel like that today, but because of something universally more awesome:

The start of Beaver Football.

As the players prepare to take the field in Bend, Oregon for a secluded, yet, focused satellite camp experience, there are a few things that stand out to me this fall that I feel compelled to share:

3 Things To Be Excited About
Following  a 2-10 season, some might think there is not a lot to be excited about. Those that follow this blog probably noticed that I must have sat on and crushed my orange-colored glasses as I publicly aired my fragile mental state in preparation for this season. In reality, I was preparing myself for a rough season and was trying not to get excited.

Much like Christmas in Whoville could not be denied, my soul was singing:

Fah who foraze! Dah who doraze!
Welcome Football, come this way!

I have three solid reasons to be excited, and so do you:

  1. Year 2 is always better than Year 1.
    A universal truth in football is that the second year of anything is always better. While some will lament sophomore slumps of players, one needs to only look at the last few big changes, or even just QB changes, to see that Year 2 can be super exciting. Year 2 of Mike Riley I ended with the best game I have ever seen in my life and paved the way for a bright, immediate future for Oregon State.  Year 2 of the Dennis Erickson era saw the best single season in OSU history. Year 2 of the Derek Andersen regime under Riley saw his most productive year ever. Year 2 of the Matt Moore ride saw us win the second most games in a season. Year 2 of the Lyle Moevao era saw us take our first unsuccessful shot at the Rose Bowl. Year 2 with Sean Canfield led to an all-conference performance and another shot at the Rose Bowl.  Year 2 of the Sean Mannion era was best start in the Mike Riley era, the best regular season record for Mike and a six-game improvement on wins. Year 2 for Andersen will be better and the reasons are objective. It is another year of training with Coach Simon, another year of perfecting new blocking schemes, another year of building relationships, another year of working with these coaches, and another year of maturity for many of the starters. Sure, we have a ton of youth coming in, but the guys that have been here, the Decouds and Boldens of the team are in their primes and are looking to make their marks. I have no idea how much better we will be, or even if we will win more games.  I just know we will be better, and that is all I ask of anyone. Continually improving.
  2. Very Few Surprises.
    We have some position battles this year, just like any year. Corner, defensive tackle, defensive end, center, tackle, and running back are all seeing battles at some point in regards to their depth. Fortunately, there are clear front runners and clear leaders all around the team. We have our receivers, we know at least one running back, we have our quarterback and tight ends. We also know what our offensive line will look like, for the most part. Same with defense. We know the names we are going to see, even if their role shifts a bit. The key to this is the players who need reps get them. Splitting QB reps three ways last year for most of fall camp hurt. Splitting reps on the defensive line and at corner also hurt.  We know whose going to start getting looks right now, and we know where the battles are.   That was not the case in 2015.
  3. Starting QB day one. 
    I know that QB’s get a lot of media love, but honestly, if OSU is going to take a solid step this year, the guy taking the snaps needs to get as many reps as possible.  Garretson has a lot of promise for the Beavers, but that doesn’t mean he is going to just show up and dominate.  His ability to focus, get the reps he needs and continue to build on his repertoire with his teammates and receivers is imperative to starting out on our best foot for a tough first game.

Just like in business, sometimes there are what we call “Opportunities” (or worries/bugs/dumpster fires/etc…) and the Beavers have some of those. Or potential opportunities I should say. These are just three things that give me pause and keep me from being my full “Hi Yah” Beaver fan:

  1. Center.
    I am really excited to see Yanni Demogerontas make the jump to starting center. He didn’t come to campus with a ton of fanfare so it is a testament to the work he has put in. That being said, Josh Mitchell was arguably our best offensive lineman last year and probably one of the better centers in our long line of quality centers at OSU. Yanni has big shoes to fill and he very well could be up to the task. I don’t know, and that is what worries me. With our option game, the interior of the line is CRUCIAL to its success. That push and double team is a huge part of our offense, and so the mystery around Yanni is scary. I am hoping that it ends up being “much ado about nothing” but I still see reason for concern, especially Week 1.
  2. Secondary.
    This area has a lot of talent to draw from, but again, I am not sure what to expect. I recognize our starters, but I also recognize them as having some struggles last year. My hope is that was about 80% the pass rush’s fault, and that this unit will make a big jump this year. I just am not sure, and like the center position, that is scary to this armchair QB.
  3. Pass Rush.
    As mentioned above, this really killed us last year. Not just the pass rush, but how easily our ends were reached on run plays. I feel like the outside of the defensive line was the toughest part of our defense last year. No push and in some games, there was no containment on the edge. There are a lot of new bodies and fresh faces to draw from, but one whole side/position group is all true freshmen.  They may be amazing, but that is still scary. There are going to be tough moments and mistakes made along the way.  I actually think the ceiling of our defensive line is pretty high, but they need to be ready and that is where I am concerned. With just a fall camp for almost half of the defensive line depth chart, there just  might not be enough time to get them as ready as they need to be to compete at the desired level so soon.

All of these questions will be answered in just a bit of time. Starting today, we will see this team take shape and establish what 2016’s version of the Beavers will be. I am 100% confident it will not resemble 2015 much, if at all.  I am also 100% confident that I have no idea what to expect outside of that first point. That is where the being scared comes from, but it is also the source of  excitement. I have literally dreamed of Paul Lucas torching Minnesota for 3 TDs in the first quarter of our opening game, en route to a 40-point victory over the Gophers. While the lucid Peter Osborne is far less confident, at least the subconscious Peter is excited and is doing its best to “Fan-Shame” me. Let’s hope I am far smarter when unconscious.

I am sure that many who know me would vouch for that hypothesis.

Go Beavs (PRO)