Former Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen is now in his second year at Oregon State. He is credited with changing the football culture of the school, and is beginning to turn around what had been a fledgling program. He has led quite a fundraiser to revamp the football facility, and is definitely trying to change the perception of Oregon State football across the country. According to Bill C.’s team preview, Andersen will need at least another year to fully turn things around in Corvallis. Bill Connelly states, “Oregon State had regressed pretty considerably in each of its last two seasons under Mike Riley, who somehow managed to escape the slide by landing the Nebraska job. But while OSU pulled a coup of its own in luring Andersen from Wisconsin, the two-deep didn't give him much to work with and may not again”. Between having a very young squad and widespread injuries, the 2015 season was not a good debut for Andersen. On top of all that, there were transfers and graduations in skill positions that put the offense in the red before the 2016 season even started.
This year, the Beavers are seeing some success, but it has definitely been hard fought. Gina Mizell of The Oregonian quoted Andersen at a press conference after their loss to Boise State:
"There is no more attaboys and, 'Go play real hard. All those things, quite frankly, it wears me out. It's probably wearing you (the media) out. It's probably wearing everybody out. And I hope it wears the kids out, because I'm not gonna talk to them about that stuff anymore. If they don't do that, then we're not making strides."
Sounds like Andersen would be sympathetic to the woes of many Bruin fans—we’re sick of a losing team and moral victories. Winning games and looking good on the field is the next necessary step.
Andersen’s defensive coordinator, Kalani Sitake, took the head coaching job at BYU for this year, so OSU was forced to fill the vacancy. Kevin Clune is both the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach, and there has been decent improvement in both units. Back in February, Clune was interviewed by ESPN, and when asked about rebuilding a team, he responded:
Pretty much everywhere I’ve been has been a rebuild, so that’s not something that’s scary. It just takes time. You’ve got to recruit and you’ve got to keep working and keep developing. Over the years I’ve feel as though I’ve been able to be more flexible with my vision and allow it to evolve to what the players are whereas early on when I first was a coordinator I was just trying to run my stuff and cram it into the kids. Learning from it, how it evolves, how each player’s strength will shape the defense in a different way so instead of just sticking to the plan, allowing it to evolve to the players we have.
Additionally, he said he didn’t look at too much film on the Beavers before arriving in Corvallis and wanted to give the team as much of a clean slate as possible.
Clune had crossed paths with Andersen earlier in his coaching career, so Clune’s hiring was a pretty natural step. The transition was smooth since Clune is familiar with Andersen’s coaching style and expectations. As much of a difficult season as it has been for Oregon State, Clune has made an impact. The team allowed an average of 37 points per game last season, and they have gotten that down to just over 31. They are ranked 96th in total defense, and last year, that number was in the triple digits.
On the other side of the ball, Kevin McGiven and T.J. Woods were promoted for this season to co-offensive coordinators. The previous OC, Dave Baldwin, was “reassigned” (more likely demoted) to inside receivers coach. After scoring an average of only 19 points per game last year, the change was long in coming. McGiven was the offensive coordinator at Utah State from 2013-2014, and is now responsible for play calling and also coaching the quarterbacks. Woods had been the offensive line coach at Wisconsin, and moved over in the same capacity the year that Andersen was hired at OSU. He was promoted this year along with McGiven to the co-offensive coordinator position and continues to coach the offensive line along with the tight ends. When Gina Mizell of The Oregonian asked the coaches about their identity on offense earlier in the season, she said McGiven called for a combination of physicality and playmaking, and Woods called for consistency. Additionally, Woods stated that, "we've proven that we're explosive. We have a lot of long-yardage plays in two games. We haven't quite proven to me that we're consistent, that we can put a 12-play drive together, a 16-play drive together."
So it’s clear that there has been a lot of change in the last two years at OSU, and Andersen was starting at ground zero. With the new influx of coaches and personnel, it will be interesting to see where they take it.
Redshirt Junior Nick Porebski out of Australia is in his second year starting at punter. He was one of the top punters in the Pac 12 last year, and was named to several pre-season watch lists this year, including the Ray Guy Award. He had the honor of representing Oregon State as one of their representatives at the Pac 12 media days, and he hopes to live up to the pre-season hype. He had a season high 45.3 yard punting average in their second game of the season, and has maintained respectable numbers since. Placekicker Garrett Owens is 10 for 17 on the season, with a 45-yard field goal made earlier this season against Idaho State. He seems to have hit a bit of a slide, as he has only made two of his last five attempts in OSU’s last three games. It appears both UCLA and Oregon State may have issues with the kicking game on Saturday.
It is important to note how important the kicking game was for the Bruins against Colorado. We lost by ten points, and nine of those points were missed field goals. Punting and field position are obviously very important, so we can never underestimate the value of the kicking game. We now know that Mora has gone back to J.J. Molson and Austin Kent, so we can only hope that things have solidified with these two individuals in the last ten days.
As with my other previews, I don’t (want to) doubt that the Bruins will win this one. While the Beavers have seen some improvements, they are still struggling on both sides of the ball and definitely do not have the same level of talent as UCLA. While the talent scale tips in our direction, we still need our coaches to step up and call plays that put our players in the best position possible.