Pac-12: Oregon State Beavers

The Pac-12 Blog offers 10 predictions for this spring season.

1. D.J. Foster's move to slot receiver will prove to be an excellent idea.

Foster was brilliantly versatile last season for Arizona State, tacking 62 catches and nearly 700 receiving yards on top of his 1,100-yard rushing campaign. Simply put, he's a premier athlete, and that gives coach Todd Graham a multitude of options on offense. Foster's move to the slot, then, only makes logical sense given the circumstances in Tempe: Jaelen Strong is gone from the outside, and Demario Richard is ready to pick up Foster's slack in the backfield. This shift doesn't handcuff ASU, either -- Foster can continue being his versatile self in 2015 and contribute to the ground attack. In fact, the slot may actually further highlight his adaptability.

2. At least 27 instances of "Berco-ing" will happen around the state of Arizona as QB Mike Bercovici officially takes the reins.

There have already been a few identified -- official or unofficial -- Berco-ing activities that have happened so far this offseason (see below). But now, with Bercovici officially taking the reins of this team and declaring its goal a national title, there will be a few fans around the state and country who find themselves celebrating in a much different way. Hint: This is much more difficult without a helmet -- don't break your nose.

3. Stanford coach David Shaw will be asked to talk about how no one is talking about his team, leaving him with a "that's so meta" reaction.

For the first time in several years, no one is really talking about the Cardinal going into spring football. The usual powerhouse had a slow start to last season, which left its final stretch -- impressive as it might have been -- relatively unnoticed, which in turn left its team this offseason relatively unnoticed. Enter: the most meta interview in which Shaw is asked to talk about talking, or rather, talk about how no one is talking about his team.

Example:

Q: David, can you discuss how different it is for you to be at this point in the season with little to no one really talking about your team?

A: [Hint: It doesn't matter what he says here because he spurns the question by actually talking about his team.]

4. Oregon State RB Storm Woods will take a huge leap forward as Gary Andersen actually makes running an emphasis in Corvallis.

Andersen has made it very clear he intends to run the ball. Mike Riley used to say this a lot, but given Andersen's ability to turn out some top-notch running backs, we're getting the idea he's very, very serious about it. The front-runner right now is Storm Woods, who showed flashes last season, specifically against Arizona State and Oregon. In preparation for said leap, the Pac-12 Blog is now taking advanced nicknames for Storm Woods in Cor-Vegas. Tweet them to @ESPN_Pac12blog.

5. Mike Leach gon' Mike Leach at some point and say something non-football related that makes headlines.

Now's a good time to review just a smidgen of what makes Washington State's Mike Leach a fascinating treasure. Many details can be found in this piece, which chronicles his long walks through the countryside to work, among other nuggets. But Leach's sound bites may be the most entertaining gifts of all. Remember that not too long ago, he predicted human extinction. What will be next? Better question: Can anything top that? We'll just have to wait and see.

6. Quarterbacks will be the most talked about subject in Eugene, Oregon, even though the competition won't really begin until this summer.

Yes, there'll be intense focus on Jeff Lockie, Morgan Mahalak and the others taking snaps this spring in an effort to become Marcus Mariota's successor. But while that group is doing its thing on Oregon's practice field, the potential front-runner for the job will be working out at Eastern Washington's rec center, of all places. Transfer Vernon Adams won't be around for spring ball, but his arrival in Eugene later this summer will add true sizzle to the battle.

7. Tre Madden and Justin Davis will both settle in primary running back roles at USC.

Javorius Allen is gone, so the Trojans have room opening up in the backfield. Davis is USC's leading returning rusher and Madden is returning following a turf toe injury that derailed his entire 2014 campaign. Built in the 225-pound power back mold, Madden brings a significantly different style to the table than the 195-pound Davis, and this will allow the Trojans to work on developing a complementary mix-and-match between the two players.

8. Chris Petersen will practice his fall avoidance of answering Boise State questions by avoiding answering Boise State questions.

Washington at Boise State is one of the most anticipated season openers for 2015. By nature, most college football coaches don't talk about the ensuing regular season too much during the spring because they don't want it to be too much of a distraction or show any kind of non-spring ball focus. That said, the matchup with the Broncos will probably be brought up a few times. This will give Petersen ample opportunity to practice whatever tactic he intends to apply next fall when folks ask him similar questions but expect a much better answer.

9. Cal will continue to show significant strides offensively.

During their miserable 1-11 campaign two seasons ago, the Bears planted some seeds offensively. Coach Sonny Dykes debuted Jared Goff as a true freshman, and the new coach introduced his aggressive aerial attack. There were growing pains aplenty, but 2014 saw marked improvement for the Bears. They developed an effective rushing attack, and Goff morphed into an upper-tier conference quarterback (5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio). This 2015 spring will see a continuation of Cal's offensive blossoming.

10. There will be a spring football rivalry between UCLA and USC.

Bruins, watch your bear. Trojans, watch out for Tommy Trojan.

OK, so maybe this is a more far-fetched prediction, but we can dream. Spring football needs some excitement.
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- When Gary Andersen took the head coaching job at Oregon State in December, he handed a sheet of paper to his wife, Stacey.

The sheet contained a dream list of hires that Andersen wanted to bring with him to Corvallis.

“You’re crazy, those guys aren’t going to go anywhere in the country with you,” he remembers her saying.

The names on the sheet were mostly those of men that Andersen had coached with before. The two that Stacey Andersen didn’t know were wide receiver coach Brent Brennan, whom Andersen hoped to retain from Mike Riley’s staff, and running back coach Telly Lockette, who had the same position at South Florida.

[+] EnlargeGary Andersen
Susan Ragan/USA TODAY SportsGary Andersen has brought the band back together at Oregon State, as many of his assistant have worked with him at other stops.
But Stacey knew the rest well.

  • Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake had been Gary Andersen’s running back/tight end coach at Southern Utah in 2003, then was brought to Utah to coach the linebackers when Andersen was promoted to assistant head coach/defensive coordinator of the Utes.
  • Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin had been Andersen’s OC at Utah State from 2009-12.
  • Defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a was Andersen’s defensive line coach at Utah State (2009-10) and then again at Wisconsin (2013-14).
  • Quarterback coach Kevin McGiven coached quarterbacks during Andersen’s first season at Utah State (2009).
  • Defensive back coach Derrick Odum coached the Utah secondary from 2000-02 while Andersen was working with the Utes' defensive tackles and special teams. Andersen then brought Odum to Utah from 2005-07 to work with the safeties.
  • Linebacker coach Ilaisa Tuiaki was Andersen’s defensive graduate assistant at Utah in 2008 and then worked with him again at Utah State from 2009-11.
  • Offensive line coach T.J. Woods worked with tight ends and special teams and then the offensive line during Andersen’s head coaching tenure at Utah State. Andersen brought him along to Wisconsin from 2013-14 to coach the OL again.
  • Strength and conditioning coach Evan Simon met Andersen during the 2006 season at Utah, when he was an assistant director of strength and conditioning. When Andersen left for Utah State in 2009 and Wisconsin in 2013, he brought Simon along to be the director of strength and conditioning both times.

It was a pretty ambitious list, and the Andersens knew that.

“She said, ‘... they’re in good spots, they’ve got great jobs.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m going to see,’ ” Gary Andersen remembered.

The staff looked very different from his coaching staff at Wisconsin, but it was a dream team, all the best guys hand picked from different points of Andersen's coaching life.

“I told the coaches as we kept going through it I was like, ‘We’re like an ‘80s band getting the band back together and going on tour,’ ” Andersen said. “But it has been awesome to be able to get everyone here.”

Unlike an ‘80s band, there doesn’t have to be a whole lot of retuning with this group. Because Andersen had remained pretty consistent throughout his coaching career -- he has a handbook he developed early on and has used at every stop since -- most of the coaches know the way he works, the lingo they’ll use, and how everything will get done.

Each defensive assistant has spent at least four seasons with Andersen. Though Kauha’aha’a was the only defensive coach who was with Andersen at his two most recent spots, this feels like very little turnover to Andersen, which should help the fact that the Beavers have to replace nine defensive starters.

The offensive side of the ball is a little different. Lockette and Brennan need to learn the language, but it should help that Baldwin, McGiven and Woods were all on Andersen’s staff during the 2009 season.

Baldwin said that he has already felt more comfortable in the first season of this job than he has anywhere else (he has coached at 13 other schools). He said it was nice to have a Day 1 in which there really didn't need to be any introductions to other staff members.

“You're not worried 'Do you have a tie on or slacks or suit coat?" Baldwin said of his first day in Corvallis. "I came in my coaching sweats because we weren't impressing anybody, we knew each other."

So while the entire Beavers roster will spend the spring getting to know the new staff, the new staff doesn't feel too new to one another. It feels like a reunion of the school of Andersen.
Spring practices end the retrospective glances at the last season and begin the forward-looking process toward the next fall. Departed players need to be replaced, and returning starters need to get better, and youngsters need to step up.

While some teams have more issues than others, every team has specific issues that will be front and center. So we're looking at the main questions each Pac-12 team will address this spring.

Up next: Oregon State.

1. How quickly can the Beavers adjust to the new regime? No matter how many questions Oregon State answer this spring and next fall, this will be the most important question and likely the one that acts as a catalyst to everything else. Mike Riley leaving was a shock to everyone and for a team (especially one that expected its coach to retire in Corvallis) to suddenly have a new coach who has new policies, new ways of running practices and new ways of attacking the game, it can be a hard adjustment. Gary Andersen already said that he knows that not everyone gives in to change so easily and he doesn’t expect all 100-plus players to just buy in immediately, but the faster Oregon State buys in to the new way of life in Corvallis, the faster it can get to the other very pressing questions.

2. How quickly can the Beavers adjust to post-Sean Mannion life? Not only are the Beavers adjusting to a new coach, they’ll also be adjusting to a new signal-caller. Life without Mannion is going to be a huge adjustment for everyone on the team. Yes, he was the foundation for the offense, but he was also a calming influence in the locker room and having that kind of turnover coincide with a coaching turnover is a lot. It’ll also be interesting to see if there’s any attrition here. Andersen’s offense is going to look quite a bit different from what Beaver fans are used to. He’s going to run a “wide open” offense and just by looking at the dual-threat QB he signed in the 2015 class, you get the idea that he’s moving in a different direction. Some of the quarterbacks on Oregon State’s roster seem to have that ability and potential, but there are others who might not be the right kind of fit for an offense that uses a mobile QB.

3. Who steps up on defense? The Beavers need to replace nine starters on the defensive side of the ball, including their top six tacklers from the 2014 season -- the defensive line returns only Jaswha James and the secondary returns only Larry Scott, while the linebackers are in complete turnover mode. Andersen said he’s looking at this as an opportunity for other guys to step up, and in reality it might be better that he and defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake can come in and implement what needs to be implemented without too many guys who played much in another scheme. But no matter what way he slices this, there are a lot of shoes to be filled.

Mailbag: Beaming for Tom Bradley

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
7:00
PM ET
After a brief hiatus (literally, I did nothing but sit around in my briefs and binge watch "Bates Motel"), I’m back with a mailbag -- at least this personality is. Follow me on Twitter, it will make my mom happy.

To the notes!

Joe Bruin in Westwood writes: I am a happy Bruin after finding out that Jim Mora has hired a quality coach in Tom Bradley. The defense has definitely been the weakest link in the Jim Mora era. How big of an impact, if any, does this hire have on our team? How confident do you feel that UCLA, with the addition of Coach Bradley, is going to compete for the Pac-12 title, and ultimately grab a spot in the playoffs?

Kevin Gemmell: It’s never a bad thing to add quality and experience, which is exactly what Bradley brings to the table. And to get that kind of a coach in late February, after a lot of the staff changes have already happened across the country, is pretty significant.

As for the defense being the “weak link” of the Mora tenure, I guess it depends on what your definition of weak is. Looking at it year by year:
  • In 2012 UCLA ranked eighth in the league in scoring defense (27.6), eighth in total defense (415.9 ypg), third in sacks (47), fourth in third-down defense (32.8 percent) and fourth in turnover margin (plus-7).
  • In 2013 the Bruins were fifth in scoring defense (23.2), fifth in total defense (385.9), sixth in sacks (32), third in third-down defense (34.9), and third in turnover margin (plus-10).
  • Last year they were seventh in scoring defense (28.1), third in total defense (398.5), tied for eighth in sacks (29), eighth in third-down defense (39.9) and eighth in turnover margin (even).

Are those “weak” numbers? Scoring defense hasn’t broken the 30-point mark (the Bruins were over 30 points in the final two years of the Rick Neuheisel era). The third-down defense was in the 40 percent range prior to Mora’s arrival. The trend here is UCLA’s defense is better under Mora than it was previously.

Whether Bradley pushes the Bruins into the upper-echelon of the conference -- i.e., the top two or three spots in each of those categories -- remains to be seen. The drop-off in sacks last year makes sense when you take guys like Anthony Barr and Cassius Marsh out of the equation and pair it with a new defensive coordinator.

Don’t get too caught up in the odd-front vs. even-front argument either. This is an experienced staff that can adjust on the fly either way. Besides, few teams in the Pac-12 are married anymore to just one front. There is so much disguising and diversity because of the range of offenses that “base” defenses fluctuate.

That’s the long answer. Short answer, be excited to nab a quality defensive-minded coach this late in the game.


Travis in Truckee writes: Seeing as draft day is the next real big event that pertains to college football, I'm curious who the blog thinks has the biggest potential to be an under-the-radar steal (a late rounder who winds up contributing heavily over the long haul) out of the Pac-12 this year. Cheers.

Kevin Gemmell: I’d say spring ball is pretty significant. We’ll be ramping up our coverage on all of the teams in the next few weeks. So don’t just disappear until April 30. Hang out for a while.

As for sleepers, if I could say with any certainty, they probably wouldn’t be under the radar, now would they?

So much depends on where they go, who the coach is and what’s the system. I think of Brandin Cooks, for example, being a phenomenal fit for New Orleans. Had he gone somewhere else, he might have been good, but maybe he doesn’t break 50 catches in his first season.

Granted, he was a first-round pick, so not exactly under the radar. I’m just using him as an example of right place, right system, right teammates.

Then you have someone like Cameron Fleming, drafted late in the fourth, making a contribution on a Super Bowl-winning team.

I think a guy like Sean Mannion could end up making a general manager look really, really smart. I’ve seen him projected around the third round. Chances are he goes to a team where he can sit for a year or two, learn the game without the “win now” pressure that Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston -- or maybe even Brett Hundley and Bryce Petty -- are going to be facing.

He has all of the physical tools to be a very good pocket quarterback. He understands defenses and he spent his entire career learning from a former NFL coach. While the NFL is tinkering more with zone reads and athletic quarterbacks are en vogue, it’s still a game built on solid quarterback fundamentals. Mannion has those. Given the right situation, I think he could be a very nice sleeper.


Dale in Stockton, Calif., writes: What is the latest news on DT Kenny Bigelow.

Kevin Gemmell: I reached out to my super-duper secret sources at USC … OK, I emailed Garry Paskwietz from WeAreSC … and he gave me the scoop.

Sounds like Bigelow is participating fully in the conditioning sessions. Media isn’t allowed in those, but according to Paskwietz, Bigelow left the field this morning “drenched in sweat.” So either he’s been living it up in the steam room, or he’s grinding.

There’s no official word on how much he’ll be participating in spring ball. But I imagine as we get closer to the Trojans kicking off on March 3, we’ll start to get a little more info on his status. Sounds like he’s been pretty active. Which is a good sign.
Last week your humble Pac-12 Blog broke down the 2015 Pac-12 recruiting class and where those players came from. But those kinds of numbers always prompt more questions like: OK, this is one class, what about the last two classes? The last three? What about every class that each Pac-12 coach has signed?

Well, your humble Pac-12 Blog is back. And it's back with those answers (with signees by state).

ARIZONA WILDCATS:
Rich Rodriguez, four classes -- 98 signees, 11 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 41
  • Arizona: 16
  • Texas: 9
  • Florida: 7
  • Louisiana: 5
  • Colorado: 3
  • Two signees: Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia
  • One signee: Canada, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS:
Todd Graham, four classes -- 100 signees, seven ESPN 300 members
  • California: 46
  • Arizona: 17
  • Florida: 7
  • Louisiana: 6
  • Three signees: Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas
  • Two signees: Nevada, Washington, Washington D.C.
  • One signee: Canada, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, New York, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah
CALIFORNIA BEARS:

Sonny Dykes, three classes -- 71 signees, four ESPN 300 members
  • California: 49
  • Texas: 6
  • Three signees: Arizona, Washington
  • Two signees: Hawaii, Mississippi, Oregon
  • One signee: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana
COLORADO BUFFALOES:

Mike MacIntyre, three classes -- 66 signees, no ESPN 300 members
  • California: 33
  • Colorado: 14
  • Texas: 8
  • Arizona: 3
  • Two signees: Hawaii, Utah
  • One signee: Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Washington
OREGON DUCKS:

Mark Helfrich, three classes -- 63 signees, 17 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 26
  • Oregon: 5
  • Four signees: Arizona, Texas, Washington
  • Three signees: Florida, Georgia, Hawaii
  • Two signees: Louisiana, Nevada
  • One signee: Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee
OREGON STATE BEAVERS:

Gary Andersen, one class -- 22 signees, no ESPN 300 members
  • Utah: 6
  • Four signees: California, Florida
  • Two signees: Oregon, Texas
  • One signee: American Samoa, Arizona, Hawaii, Louisiana
STANFORD CARDINAL:

David Shaw, five classes -- 95 signees, 26 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 25
  • Georgia: 7
  • Six signees: Arizona, Florida, Texas
  • Five signees: Utah, Washington
  • Four signees: Louisiana
  • Three signees: North Carolina
  • Two signees: Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia
  • One signee: Hawaii, Indiana, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington D.C.
UCLA BRUINS:

Jim Mora, four classes -- 92 signees, 31 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 55
  • Texas: 10
  • Arizona: 5
  • Three signees: Florida, Georgia, Hawaii
  • Two signees: Delaware
  • One signee: Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Washington
USC TROJANS:

Steve Sarkisian, two classes -- 43 signees, 25 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 32
  • Texas: 3
  • Two signees: Florida, Utah
  • One signee: Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma
UTAH UTES:

Kyle Whittingham, five classes* -- 108 signees, 0 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 40
  • Utah: 29
  • Texas: 15
  • Florida: 8
  • Louisiana: 6
  • Nevada: 3
  • Two signees: Arizona, Hawaii
  • One signee: Maryland, New Jersey, New York

*This is only counting Whittingham's classes that he recruited into the Pac-12 conference (so, starting with the 2011 signing class since the Utes made it official on June 22, 2010).

WASHINGTON HUSKIES:

Chris Petersen, two classes -- 49 signees, 4 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 28
  • Washington: 14
  • Idaho: 2
  • One signee: Maryland, Montana, Oregon, Texas, Wyoming
WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS:

Mike Leach, four classes -- 102 signees, one ESPN 300 members
  • California: 57
  • Washington: 14
  • American Samoa: 7
  • Three signees: Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Texas
  • Two signees: Alabama, Georgia
  • One signee: Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, Oregon, Oklahoma, Utah
NOTES/OBSERVATIONS:

There are 20 states from which no current Pac-12 South coach has ever signed a player, and 18 from which no current North coaches have never signed a player. Of those states, 11 are overlapping, meaning that no player from the following states has been signed to a current Pac-12 coach during his tenure as head coach -- Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

It's not surprising that no players has been signed from Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska or North Dakota because those are the four least-populated states in the U.S. What is surprising is that only three players have been signed from the state of Alabama -- two to Mike Leach and one to Sonny Dykes.

Long story short: If you're a high school prospect and you want to play in the Pac-12, it doesn't hurt to live in California, Florida or Texas (if you live outside of "Pac-12 territory"). If you're a high school prospect and you live in Wisconsin or West Virginia -- even though some of these coaches have been head coaches in those states, your chances don't look good at all.

Eleven of the 12 programs have signed the most players from the state of California during current coaches' tenures. The only coach who hasn't is Oregon State coach Gary Andersen, but California is tied for second-most on his list.

North coaches have signed -- on average -- three classes per coach while the South coaches have signed -- on average -- four per. While it's really only a difference of one class, it is a difference of 20-30 student athletes per coach, so really the possibility of 120-180 different home states.

In the South the most recruited states outside of California and home states -- as a whole -- are Florida and Texas. Again, this might not be surprising considering how talent-rich both of those states are, but the only Pac-12 South coach who has ever coached in one of those states is Todd Graham (Rice).

In the North, it's a bit more of a mash-up. The states of Arizona and Washington are big for Cal and Oregon. Florida is big for Oregon State and Stanford. Chris Petersen really hasn't had to reach out of California or Washington, much like his in-state foe, Mike Leach. However, Leach also likes to go to American Samoa, where he has signed seven players.

USC has had the most success with the top recruits. Fifty-eight percent of Sarkisian's recruits are ESPN 300 members. After him, the next most "successful" recruiting coaches are Mora (33.7 percent), Shaw (31.6 percent) and Helfrich (27 percent).

Signing top recruits certainly gives teams a boost on the field as evidenced by the teams above and the successes they've had under each coach. But look at Utah. Whittingham hasn't signed a single ESPN 300 player and yet his team was in the hunt for the South title last season. It's the same with Rich Rodriguez: Even though just 7 percent of his players have been ESPN 300 members, he has still had major success on the field for the Wildcats.
The NFL Combine kicks off on Friday.

Here’s a breakdown of which Pac-12 players will be appearing on which days.

FRIDAY, FEB. 20 | Specialists, offensive linemen, tight ends

Offensive linemen:
Tight ends: SATURDAY, FEB. 21 | Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers

Quarterbacks:
Running backs:
Wide receivers: SUNDAY, FEB. 22 | Defensive linemen, linebackers

Defensive linemen:
Linebackers: MONDAY, FEB. 23 | Defensive backs
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- In one of the very first meetings of the year, new Oregon State coach Gary Andersen sat down his team and gave a very blunt message. For the players who had been around for a couple of seasons with Mike Riley -- who’s often billed as “the nicest man” in college football -- it was probably a bit of a change of pace.

“There aren’t 105 kids that are going to buy into you,” Andersen said. “And I told them that one of the first days. I said, ‘You all won’t make it at the end of the day. I want you to [make it]. Prove me wrong.’”

[+] EnlargeGary Andersen
Susan Ragan/USA TODAY SportsGary Andersen is aiming to upgrade an Oregon State run game that finished 11th in the Pac-12 in 2014.
Very un-Riley-like, indeed.

But Andersen said that he has made the exact same statement at each of his previous head coaching stops -- at Wisconsin in 2013, at Utah State in 2009, at Southern Utah in 2003.

“I don’t mean that in a negative way that they’re not going to make it, like they’re going to get kicked off the team. I just mean that there’s going to be change and with the change you have to either accept it and believe in it or you need to change what you’re doing to be happy,” Andersen went on. “I think we run the best program in the country for kids … but again, you’re not going to make 105 of them happy.”

For the Beaver players, it’s going to be a completely new program -- that’s not unique to this coaching change.

But what makes it unique is how this change came after Riley, a coach that held a 14-year tenure -- one of the longest in the nation. Just over two months ago, this team thought its coach would be in Corvallis until he retired. Now, they’re learning new verbiage and schemes.

And, there’s very little connection to the previous regime -- just wide receivers coach Brett Brennan and a handful of graduate assistants.

But the transition is going as well as it could, according to Andersen.

The players got iPads so they could begin learning the new system and verbiage, which will most likely sound and look pretty different from the past few seasons in Corvallis.

“There will be carryover but I would say it will be limited,” Andersen said.

Offensively, Andersen is describing his offense not as a pro style or spread, but instead as a “wide open” offense. Essentially meaning that he’s hoping the Beavers will be able to play fast when need be, to play slow when they need to, and to be able to function from several formations.

Some of the biggest schematic differences were already made clear when Andersen inked his first recruiting class after less than a month on the job. The Beavers signed a single quarterback in the 2015 class -- 6-foot-3 dual-threat QB Seth Collins.

And the other five quarterbacks on the Oregon State roster? Not dual-threat players.

On top of that, Andersen’s offenses have featured the likes of Robert Turbin and Melvin Gordon. Last season, despite Riley speaking ad nauseum about wanting to create a run game, the Beavers finished 11th in the Pac-12 and never created anything that was consistent or effective.

In the spirit of change, the Beavers signed four running backs, three of which are in their top six-ranked signees.

Defensively, the same amount of change can be expected but it might be easier to input considering the Beavers lost nine defensive starters. So rather than having players who’ve already contributed and adjusting them into different roles, Andersen will be building more from the ground up with guys who’ve had less game experience.

For Andersen, he’s billing it as a positive rather than a negative that so much of the defensive contributors from a season ago need to be replaced.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity that’s presented for a bunch of young players,” he said.

Though there might be “opportunities” on either side of the ball, those will be earned by the players who can adjust themselves into Andersen’s program and the Beavers’ new way of life.

Though how many of those 105 players make it through remains to be seen, and Andersen is being realistic and honest about that. But so far, so good for the first-year coach.

“I think that [statement] took them back a little bit,” Andersen said. “But so far they’ve proven me wrong.”
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Basketball at Oregon State’s Gill Coliseum this season has been pretty exciting as the men’s team has gone 14-0 at home and the women’s team is experiencing an unprecedented season, up to No. 7 in the AP poll with a record of 23-2.

But don’t think that’s the only exciting basketball happening on the Beavers’ campus.

Just west of Gill stands the men’s and women’s practice facility, and during most lunches a handful of Oregon State football coaches and graduate assistants can be found running the court.

“Barack Obama plays basketball,” new defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake said. “We should probably learn something from that -- be competitive and stay in shape.”

The basketball might be played on a slightly different level (read: incredibly different level) than that of the players who actually train to play the game in the same facilities -- Sitake noted that they “probably do this building wrong by playing basketball in here” -- but the intensity of the game is undeniable and the competitive streaks of coaches and former players certainly shows through in the games.


Profanity is thrown between coaches (more reliably than the basketball) and the ratio of turnovers-to-made 3s is probably in the 4:1 category.

During any given cross section of play lasting a minute, the coaches might go 0-for-4 or 1-for-4 from the field (both of these happened on Wednesday) while attempting two rainbow passes during the same period.

But, like the actual men’s and women’s basketball teams know, there is a natural pulse to the game and when players get hot, their teammates feed the hot hand. There might be a six-minute scoring drought but the next four possessions could contain behind-the-back passes, made 3s and consecutive buckets.

“We’re a bunch of guys who are just trying to run stuff that we learned on video games or from watching March Madness,” Sitake said. “We don’t know anything. We’re just trying to screen away and set up picks. … It all sounds good but it’s a lot harder than it looks on TV.”

During Wednesday’s scrimmage 12 men showed up to play so the coaches did a four-on-four-on-four, which, as Sitake pointed out, minimized fast breaks and cherry-picking, which the grad assistants tend to do when playing against some of the older coaches.

They play to 15 by ones and teams are divvied up as evenly as possible to keep the game competitive.

The general scouting report is that graduate assistants Brian Wozniak, Andrew Seumalo and Keegan Andersen are the top picks, running backs coach Telly Lockette plays basketball like he plays running back and everyone else gives about 100 percent.


This certainly isn’t the first football staff to play pick up ball together but it’s a good way for a new group to get to know each other and exercise a little bit. Coach Gary Andersen has only been out to play once so far during his tenure, but Sitake said Andersen is welcome to come and be a big man for his team any day.

But for now, Andersen is going to stick to the treadmill and the field. And from a professional perspective, the rest of the coaches and graduate assistants should too. And that’s probably a very smart decision.
Signing day has come and gone and with it an entirely new batch of Pac-12 players is joining the conference (269 players, to be exact).

With the Pac-12 gaining more national recognition, it’s no surprise to see the recruiting trends heading further outside of what was typically considered “Pac-12 territory.”

For example, the most heavily recruited area was -- unsurprisingly -- the West Coast and states that are the home to one or more Pac-12 programs. But right after that, the next-biggest target was the South and Southeast: SEC territory. The Pac-12 signed the same number of recruits from Texas as it did Arizona. Louisiana was a big state for the conference as well -- Pac-12 schools signed 13 players from the Bayou State.

Here’s a closer look at where exactly the conference picked up its Class of 2015 talent:
Observations:

  • One obvious note is the number of players from California -- players from the Golden State account for 48 percent of Pac-12 signees in 2015. That’s not too surprising, considering how large and talent-rich the state is. Of the top 25 players in California, 21 signed with Pac-12 schools. The other four signed with Alabama, Tennessee, Notre Dame and San Jose State.
  • Each Pac-12 program signed at least one player from California in the 2015 class (that’s the only state with which that’s true this season). On average, there are 11 signees from California in each recruiting class this season. Though it’s USC who leads the way with 17 signees from California, Washington State was right on the Trojans’ heels with 16 signees from Cali.
  • The state of Washington showed out pretty well in the conference. While there was only one player from Washington in the ESPN 300, there were 16 signees from the state who landed with Pac-12 programs.
  • The only program to not sign a player from the program’s home state was Oregon. However, there were five players from Oregon that did sign with Pac-12 programs. Those players ended up at Arizona (1), Oregon State (2), Stanford (1) and Washington (1).
  • Players staying home: Arizona and Arizona State signed seven players from Arizona; California, Stanford, UCLA and USC signed 48 players from California; Colorado signed four players from Colorado; Oregon State signed two players from Oregon; Utah signed three players from Utah; and Washington and Wazzu signed a total of nine players from Washington.
  • The most national class (meaning the team that signed the players from the most number of states) was Stanford, which signed players from 13 states. The least national class was USC, which signed players from just six states.

But what about the concentration of top talent in the 2015 class?

Again, unsurprisingly, California leads the way. The Golden State makes up half of the four-star and five-star players in the 2015 Pac-12 class. USC snagged five-star cornerback Iman Marshall, who hails from Long Beach, California, and 33 of the 66 four-stars in the 2015 class are also from California.

But this is where there’s a bit of a changeup. Of the 14 players from Texas that signed in the 2015 class, five (36 percent) are four-star players who landed at Pac-12 programs. After that -- with the exception of three four-star players from Georgia -- the majority of the top talent, again, hails from the traditional Pac-12 region.

[+] EnlargeChris Clark
Joe Faraoni/ESPN ImagesIt's not often that the Pac-12 pulls top prospects from Connecticut, such as UCLA-bound tight end Chris Clark.
Five-stars:

  • Hawaii: 1
  • California: 1
Four-stars:

  • California: 33
  • Texas: 5
  • Washington: 4
  • Arizona: 3
  • Georgia: 3
  • Utah: 3
  • Two four-star signees: Louisiana, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma
  • One four-star signee: South Carolina, Colorado, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Connecticut, Hawaii

More notes:

  • Notably, the conference signed a four-star and five-star player from Hawaii. There were only four players in the state that were four- or five-star players. The two players who didn’t sign with a Pac-12 team went to Texas Tech and BYU. Both had Pac-12 offers.
  • The conference also cleaned up -- in regard to snagging the limited top talent out of state -- in Nevada. There were only three four-star players in Nevada and two ended up in the Pac-12 (UCLA and USC). The other player signed with Notre Dame.
  • More impressively, the conference was able to sign one of two four-star players out of Connecticut (TE Chris Clark, UCLA). When considering the distance between Nevada and the Pac-12 and Connecticut and the Pac-12, this is quite a recruiting feat.

As these players get more into the programs and possibly become big Pac-12 contributors, it will only open up these national pipelines more, making the conference’s footprint even bigger.
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- New Oregon State and former Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen found himself in a pretty strange situation as he watched the College Football Playoff national title game last month.

Andersen was watching a former conference rival (Ohio State) take on a future conference rival (Oregon).

So when the Buckeyes began to roll, he could be thankful he wouldn't be facing them regularly. But he'll play the Ducks on the final Saturday of November every single season with his new team. Not exactly the most calming situation for any coach.

The thought wasn't lost on Andersen, but he said he tried to take in the game mostly as a fan, watching with friends and family.

Though Andersen said he really only watched 60-70 percent of the snaps, he did say he took in a few of the X's and O's of the game that day.

"[I was] more of a fan, but certain things always catch your eye," Andersen said.

So, what was it that caught his eye?

"I'm always drawn to the defensive side of things. Obviously, that day [against OSU] we didn't play that well on the other side of the ball," Andersen said of Wisconsin's meeting with Ohio State, "and so I would see how [the Buckeyes] were attacking them, what they were playing."

The Buckeyes attacked Oregon's odd-front defense in several ways -- with 246 yards on the ground from Ezekiel Elliott; with 242 yards through the air from Cardale Jones; with four different receivers registering at least 45 receiving yards.

But even though he didn't watch the full game snap-for-snap he did see an overwhelming truth: that both teams very much deserved a spot in that matchup. The only bad thing for Andersen about that truth is that even though he got farther from one of those teams, he only got closer to the other.

"[Ohio State was] a very powerful team the day that we played them, and I think they just continued down those same lines," Andersen said. "Oregon was much the same, watching them from afar. ... I believe they deserved to be there, and they both found their way to win the games they had to [in order] to get into the championship game."

And what were his thoughts on the final? Did the team that dismantled his former Wisconsin team in the Big Ten championship game deserve that crown? Or should it have gone to the team that will loom large every November from here on out?

"The way it came out and the way Ohio State played through the playoffs," Andersen said, "I thought they definitely proved they -- last year -- were the best team in the country."
video
The Ultimate ESPN 300 is loaded with 14 Pac-12 prospects who didn’t make their respective ESPN 150 or ESPN 300 rankings, so trimming that list to the top five who outperformed their initial rankings and became surprise stars at the college level wasn’t easy. The state of Oregon led the way on this list, but Arizona State and Stanford were also home to a few college stars who didn’t receive the same level of recruiting attention as others.

Biggest shoes to fill: Oregon State

February, 16, 2015
Feb 16
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Players come and go.

In a perfect world, the teams only have to reload, not rebuild. But following this season, there are a lot of shoes that need to be filled due to early departures and expected graduations.

That leaves the question: Will these spots be reloading or rebuilding? Your humble Pac-12 blog takes a look at some of the biggest shoes that need to be filled entering the 2015 season.

Oregon State Beavers

Biggest shoes: DE/DT Dylan Wynn

In our effort to avoid the obvious in this series -- you know, always tapping QBs for teams with spring competitions ahead behind center -- we're not going with Sean Mannion here, though his shoes are obviously quite roomy. Cornerback Steven Nelson, who joined Wynn on the second-team All-Pac-12 defense, also would be a good candidate. But Wynn started 44 games, tied for seventh most in Oregon State history, so the void he leaves behind is one that stretches back four years. For the past two seasons, he's led Beavers defensive linemen in tackles. In 2014, he tied for the team lead with 12.0 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. He was versatile enough to play end and tackle. Moreover, he was a tone-setter, a high-motor guy who made plays on want-to more than athletic ability. While the Beavers didn't play good defense in 2014, Wynn was a bright spot. With a new, defensive-minded head coach in Gary Andersen and a new scheme with coordinator Kalani Sitake, as well as just three returning starters on defense, it's going to be important this spring for someone to step into Wynn's spot and take the reins of the defense. As everyone knows, it starts up front.

Stepping in: Senior Lavonte Barnett

As it stands now, Barnett and Jaswha James appear to be the likely starters at defensive end for the Beavers. Barnett started four games and James seven in 2014. The reason Barnett headlines here is he was more productive, in fact tying Wynn for the team lead with 4.5 sacks, despite missing two games with an ankle injury. Barnett is a good athlete with a nice burst off the ball, and he's been hinting at big things for two years now. It's his time to step up. Or perhaps some youngsters will make their move under a new administration, such as Luke Hollingsworth or Titus Failauga.

College football is a game driven by offense, seemingly as much as it ever has been. And yet, in our review of the best Power 5 coordinator hires in this cycle, eight of the top 10 coaches in new places are defensive coordinators.

Maybe that's because when offensive coordinators move, they become head coaches? Or maybe it's because the balance of the sport could eventually swing back toward defense? Or both?


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We continue our series looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2014. If you feel a little nostalgic, you can check out the top performances from 2013.

Up next: D.J. & the Doctor heal the Beavers

Who and against whom: Oregon State senior linebackers Michael Doctor and D.J. Alexander make huge fourth quarter plays to finish off No. 6 Arizona State 35-27 in one of the Pac-12's biggest upsets of the season.

The numbers: Doctor picked off Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly and went 35 yards for a touchdown that gave the Beavers a 35-27 lead with 1:38 remaining. Alexander then sealed the deal with a sack of Kelly on fourth-and-2 with 1:10 left.

A closer look: Oregon State didn't have a good season, finishing 5-7, their fourth season in five years with at least six defeats. Then, with grumpiness growing over the state of the program, particularly in comparison to rival Oregon, coach Mike Riley bolted for Nebraska. This victory over the Sun Devils, in fact, was their only quality win. It pretty much came from nowhere, as the Sun Devils, who had played their way into longshot contention for the College Football Playoff, led 24-14 at halftime and seemed to be coasting toward an expected win. Yet the Beavers, losers of four in a row, got off the canvas and rallied for the victory, mostly behind a defense that shut down ASU in the second half, allowing just three points. Alexander finished with seven tackles, including two for a loss, and Doctor added five. The pair combined for 70 starts in their careers, and in 2011 they seemed like one of the conference's bright young linebacking tandems. Neither career came together as hoped for in Corvallis, with injuries being an issue, but this was one shining moment for them and their team in 2014.
How resilient was your defense in 2014?

Last Thursday, we looked at the teams in the Pac-12 and how well they produced points after turnovers. This was the South Division, and here was the North. Now, we look at the flip side.

It can be frustrating when, after a big defensive stand, the offense coughs it up and gives the ball right back. Time for the defense to take the field again, be it inside their own red zone, the 50 or the opponent’s 1-yard line. (Or if you’re Shaq Thompson, just run it back 100 yards.)

Just like offensive points off of turnovers, there are exceptions. Sometimes a team gets a turnover at the end of the half or a game, so the defense doesn’t have to make a stand. So these numbers aren’t completely cut-and-dried. But rather it’s a measuring stick.

We looked at the South earlier today, and now we turn our attention to the North. If you’re curious how your team did last year, here are the numbers for the South and the numbers for the North.

California

Turnovers committed: 20
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 10-20 (50 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 69
Games without committing at least one turnover: 2
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 3

Oregon

Turnovers committed: 11
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 3-11 (27 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 13
Games without committing at least one turnover: 7
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 5

Oregon State

Turnovers committed: 14
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 9-14 (64 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 43
Games without committing at least one turnover: 3
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 3

Stanford

Turnovers committed: 21
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 6-21 (28 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 38
Games without committing at least one turnover: 1
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 7

Washington

Turnovers committed: 17
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 10-17 (58 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 53
Games without committing at least one turnover: 5
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 2

Washington State

Turnovers committed: 25
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 18-25 (72 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 114
Games without committing at least one turnover: 2
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 1

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