The season, and the Gary Andersen era, has gone up in a cloud of smoke. But to the credit of both Oregon State’s administration and Andersen, rather than run things further into the ground with no benefit, a mutual agreement for all parties to move on was reached, and all concerned can get started with starting over.
It’s not going to be a quick fix, or a cheap one, and its going to take more work on all fronts than anyone expects. But that’s the nature of things like this, and was already a foregone conclusion, given how badly things have gone off the rails. And as noted, it gets Beaver Nation started on the restart.
So what can we expect?
There are 3 main parts to that, and 2 of them are going to take a while. One would be the hiring of the next permanent head coach, and more importantly, the process that will hopefully lead to getting the next hire right.
Athletic Director Scott Barnes has said that Oregon State will conduct a national search, employing a search agency, and not constraining the process based on geography, current coaching status, or ties to Oregon State. His target for having a new coach on board is some time in December, which is consistent with how most coaching moves in football happen, at or near the end of the regular season. That’s when the dominoes will begin to fall, and the job hopping happens, with the objective of getting changes in place in time to positively impact recruiting signing day, and then get the off-season program rolling.
Another is a cultural change in the athletic department, at least if they don’t want to doom whomever the next hire is to failure as well. Oregon State is at a crossroads, and needs to take some steps that will send a message to their coaches, recruits, and the program’s investors that the university is going to commit to success, or else those coaches, recruits, and their investors, will quickly realize that more of business as usual means more business as usual, which has been 1 decent season and 2 other mediocre bowl games in 9 years (assuming the Beavers don’t miraculously win 5 of the remaining 6 games to earn a 3rd mediocre bowl trip).
Those projects will take some time, and we’ll examine some of the key issues with both in the days to come.
But more immediately, there is a half a season still to play, and it starts with Homecoming this weekend, against Colorado. The Buffs are struggling, becoming the first division champion since the Pac-10 became the Pac-12 to start conference play the following season 0-3. But they also have a substantial number of the pieces in place that produced the kind of turnaround Oregon State is going to try to emulate, going from worst in the conference to a conference championship game appearance. And so the Buffs won’t be feeling sorry for the Beavers; they have their own season to salvage.
Assistant Coach Cory Hall, who has been the Beavers’ corner backs coach the last year and a half, was selected from the current coaching staff by Barnes to act as interim head coach. It’s his job to pick up the pieces and put them back together as best as he can.
By most accounts and evidences, Hall was picked because of the degree to which he relates to the players, both those in his position group, and the team overall. It’s also I think very telling of Barnes’ immediate expectations, and grasp of the problem, that he did not elevate one of the coordinators, which is usually where an interim coach is selected from when an unplanned absence of the head coach occurs, whatever the reason.
That shows recognition of a key issue, the trust of the players. One of many issues with the Andersen era was the stunning number of players who left the program, and a combination of a harsh attitude and some abrupt lineup changes were the characteristics that translated to both inconsistent play and eventual frustration. If Hall can improve the mindset of the players, its possible they might just play better.
It’s also an indication that Barnes realizes the only persons most of those invested in the program have less confidence in at this point than Andersen are offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach/play caller Kevin McGiven, defensive coordinator Kevin Clune, and assistant coach Dave Baldwin, who was Andersen’s first OC in Corvallis.
One of the immediate questions at the press conference announcing the changes was what Hall’s plans were for changes. Given the short notice this entire upheaval unfolded in, and the looming prospect of the Buffs, who Ralphie-stomped the Beavers 47-6 last year in Boulder, Hall understandably didn’t have many specifics figured out yet.
But he did acknowledge that he, and the rest of the staff, do have to figure some of those things out, and he did note that he’s the head coach now.
I don’t expect to see all that much that’s that different this week; its too soon to make many changes and actually get them implemented.
However, after Saturday, it will be 12 days before the Beavers face Stanford, and then 9 more before they take on a not good Cal Bears team in Berkeley.
A defensive back in his playing days that coaches that position now isn’t going to suddenly make Darell Garretson an accurate or even mechanically sound quarterback. Or suddenly fix the issues with the o-line.
But with 2 long preparation cycles, Hall has about as good an opportunity as could happen to follow up on what should be an energetic first outing with some more substantive changes, be they schematic or in terms of staff assignment, AND have enough time to actually get some of them assimilated.
Expect some game plan and play calling twists as soon as Saturday, and probably some other shake-ups over the next few weeks.
Whether they can even produce some competitive efforts, never mind wins, remains to be seen. At a minimum, we should get a much clearer picture of what the Beavers may provide the next regime to begin to work with. That’s a key piece of information given this year’s recruiting class was not impressive in any way before the upheaval, and isn’t likely to suddenly catch up with most of the rest of the conference between now and signing day, no matter who is hired. It will be 2019, if not 2020, before many non JC/transfer recruits make a substantial impact on the field.
But if the Beavers show some signs of progress in the short term, the wisdom of making today’s changes today, and not at the end of the season, will be obvious.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)