Oregon State head football coach Gary Andersen said last week he had his choices for the two open assistant coach spots that came about after Brett Brennan left to become the head coach at San Jose St., and took Derrick Odom with him, but that it would take a few days for the administrative gears to grind through to actually getting them hired.
Today, that process progressed far enough to announce that Jason Phillips and John Rushing, shown in the above artwork that Oregon State released with the hirings, will be joining the Beavers.
Phillips comes to Corvallis after a 1 year stint at Kansas as the Jayhawks’ wide receivers coach, and 3 years at SMU immediately before that, also coaching the WRs and being the co-offensive coordinator.
He was an All-American wide receiver at Houston, playing with Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware, and played 5 years in the NFL, 2 with Detroit and then 3 in Atlanta, before finishing his playing career with a couple of years in the CFL.
His coaching career has been primarily with receivers, and began with a year at Texas State. He did 2 4 year stints at his alma mater, with a 1 year side trip up to Waco in 2007, as Baylor’s inside receivers coach. At Houston, he did log some time with the Cougars’ cornerbacks, and spent some time there as the co-offensive coordinator as well.
Rushing is also a former player, and a career assistant, but has both NFL coaching experience, and a definite northwest connection. He was a 4 year starter at defensive back at Washington State, making 46 starts for the Cougs, and played 2 years in the CFL.
He spent a couple of seasons coaching the secondary at nearby Willamette University in Salem, and also had stops at Montana State and Boise State, and was at Utah State from 2003 to 2008, again coaching the secondary.
He also has an Andersen connection, as he was the only member of the Aggies’ staff asked to stay on when Andersen took over there as head coach. That didn’t last long though, as Rushing soon left for a 7 year career as a jack of all trades assistant for the Green Bay Packers, winning a Super Bowl and coaching in 3 Pro Bowls along the way.
He wasn’t retained after the 2015 season though, and spent this past year as a defense and special teams consultant for the Los Angeles Rams.
Neither hire is a sure-fire home run, as both are well traveled journeyman assistants, but also bring a variety of experience to the table. I’ve yet to find anyone who knew anything about either before they surfaced in Corvallis though.
But while there’s no reason to assume either will be around long term, there’s also no reason to expect this to be a quick stopover, as can be the situation with young and rising assistants.
Andersen had good things to say about them as recruiters, but time will tell if that’s just coach-speak or not. Phillips doesn’t have a resume of bringing in the kind of highly coveted recruit that Oregon State needs to elevate the program, but then again he hasn’t been anywhere where he would have been able to do so. Rushing has been away from the college scene for 8 years, and will have a lot of catching up to do in the recruiting connection business.
Phillips will take over all of the wide outs, ending the split between “inside” and “outside” receivers that didn’t work well this past year, and will also have the title of Passing Game Coordinator, something that Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks coach Kevin McGiven had a hard time coordinating.
Interestingly, this also further diminishes the role of Dave Baldwin, who shared wide receiver coaching duties with Brennan, and will now coach the Tight Ends, a position Andersen’s offense has de-emphasized to the point of being little more than extra blockers.
This should be a good move, as fracturing the receiver group doesn’t make much sense, when some of the receivers float between the slot and the edge, and they have to work together, or would were Oregon State to run combination routes.
The receiver group was arguably the position group that underperformed the most/worst in 2016, with multiple members not only not developing, but regressing to the point of disappearing. Phillips at least has experience with some highly productive passing games, and will bring the group under a single focus instead of the haphazard mix and match approach employed this past year.
Rushing will take over coaching the safeties, the role Odom had, sharing the secondary with Cory Hall, who will continue to coach the corners.
I have reservations about continuing to split up the secondary, which must work together if Oregon State is to progress to an actual advanced defensive scheme. And who is used as the nickel and dime can, or should, potentially come some times from the corners, and sometimes from the safeties, depending on matchups and game plans.
On the other hand, we saw notable improvement in the secondary when Mike Riley brought an assistant in that had experience at the pro level, and with more advanced pro schemes and methods. That could help out again, bringing both a higher level of individual technique and a higher level of scheme.
Andersen also announced he won’t be coaching the defensive line again, with Chad Kauha’aha’a taking over the group in addition to continuing to coach the outside linebackers.
This move is also promising, as Andersen at times seemed too busy running from one fire to another to concentrate on developing the defensive line, another position group that struggled, failing to generate a pass rush much of the time.
It also makes sense to combine the DEs and outside LBs, as an edge rush, almost totally absent throughout Andersen’s tenure, can come from either position, and sometimes needs to be a group effort. More focus and coordination can only help. And with Andersen not handling any position group, he should be better able to oversee things without leaving a particular group behind in the process.