New coach, new look: Oregon State starts over with Andersen
CORVALLIS, Ore.— And so begins the Gary Andersen era at Oregon State. Or the post-Mike Riley era.
However history looks back on this season, it is certainly a time of change for the Beavers. A new coach, a new system, and, if Andersen has his way, a new culture of winning.
"I want the kids to be able — especially the seniors — when they walk out of here to have their head held high, their chest puffed out and they feel very good about their university," Andersen said. "I also expect them to walk into every football game knowing and believing they can win."
After Oregon State finished 5-7 last season, longtime coach Mike Riley was lured away by the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Less than a week later, Andersen was hired as the Beavers' 28th coach after two seasons at Wisconsin, where he went 19-7 with bowl berths both years.
His impact remains to be seen, but already there are big changes afoot. Part of those changes rise from necessity: Oregon State is auditioning for a new quarterback after Sean Mannion's departure for the pros, and the Beavers only have 11 returning seniors.
But other changes — like a renewed emphasis on academics and individual accountability — are part of Andersen's plans.
"For us, we're really a day-by-day working team right now. We are so youthful. We have to worry about today and then take on the fights for tomorrow and find a way to be consistent," Andersen said. "I think that's our challenge."
Things to watch for at Oregon State:
Quarterback battle: There are three guys vying to be Oregon State's starter, and none has taken a snap in a college game. So far the front-runner appears to be freshman Seth Collins, who generated buzz in spring practice, throwing for 175 yards and two touchdowns and running for 74 yards in the spring game. Redshirt freshmen Nick Mitchell and Marcus McMaryion will also compete to start.
Changing the offense: The Beavers are moving away from the pro-style offense they ran under Riley, which was perfectly suited to Mannion. Andersen is installing a new spread offense, and will be leaning heavily on senior Storm Barrs-Woods, who has rushed for 2,250 yards and 24 touchdowns over his career at Oregon State.
"He needs to be a young man that gets the ball in his hands 20, 25 times a game. Every game is different, and there are different opportunities that arise, but he needs to carry the load for us back there," Andersen said.
Andersen has seen success with running backs: At Wisconsin last season, Melvin Gordon rushed for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Changing the defense: Things are going to look different on the other side of the ball, too. The Beavers are going to a 3-4 base defense under new defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, whom Andersen lured away from Utah.
But the defense was already hurt with the loss of linebacker Darrell Songy, who did not meet requirements set for him following his suspension in 2014 for violating athletic department policy.
"The scheme is not too different," said defensive end Jaswha James. "People hear 4-3 and 3-4 and their mind is spinning. It's kind of like, you have the same concepts, the concepts are similar. So at the end of the day, it's just playing football. You may have the same responsibility that you had in our old defense, but you're just doing it from a different alignment."
Issac's back: Offensive lineman Issac Seumalo is finally healthy after missing all of 2014 with a foot injury. Seumalo started 27 games in his first two seasons at Oregon State and has made the Outland Trophy preseason watch list.
"I don't want to see him on the injury report anymore. We're past that. As you know, as well as I, no young man in the country deserves to have an opportunity to play football again than him," Andersen said.
Predictions: After going 2-7 in Pac-12 play last season, it's expected that the Beavers will struggle as they adjust to a new coach and a new system. The annual Pac-12 preseason media poll has them finishing last in the North Division.
Key conference games this season include Oct. 17 at Washington State and Oct. 24 at home against Colorado. The Beavers open the season with a Friday night game at home against Weber State on Sept. 4.
"We're a confident team," receiver Victor Bolden said. "We believe we may shock some people."