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1. Somebody has to lose
On paper, it was a steal. Oregon State lost a guy who had won 29 games in five years and replaced him with a guy who's won 30 in three. When Mike Riley surprised many by both being offered and accepting the Nebraska job in last year's coaching carousel, the Beavers yanked Gary Andersen out from Wisconsin's grasp.
Andersen has crafted an impeccable résumé for a coach based in the West.
After a slow rise -- Ricks College, Idaho State, Northern Arizona, Park City (Utah) High School -- the former Utah lineman got a break at his alma mater, landing on Ron McBride's staff in the late-1990s and, after a year as Southern Utah's head coach, serving as Urban Meyer's Utah defensive line coach in 2004. When Meyer left and Kyle Whittingham was promoted to head coach, Andersen was his defensive coordinator for four years. In 2007-08, Utah ranked 10th and 25th in Def. S&P+, and Utah State hired him to attempt a salvage job in Logan.
He did more than salvage; he built a sturdy program.
The Aggies had been to one bowl in 15 years when he arrived. This program had bottomed out, and it took him a couple of years to get the foundation laid down. But in his third season (2011), USU rode an exciting run game to a 7-6 record and Potato Bowl appearance. And in 2012, the defense came around; USU ranked 13th in overall F/+ and won 11 games for the first time in its FBS history. He left for Wisconsin, but his foundation was sound enough that, despite injuries, USU has won 20 games over the last two years without him.
At Wisconsin, Andersen won 19 games and made a Big Ten title appearance. His Badgers dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness at quarterback and in 2014 had to replace almost their entire starting front seven, but the wins continued. The Andersen formula is simple: smart defense + good running game = scoreboard.
That Oregon State, with its two winning seasons in five years and three total Rose Bowl appearances (none in 50 years), was able to pluck away the coach of the Big Ten West champions was an impressive statement. The Beavers are pouring money into upgrading their lot in life, and this was an excellent first step. And the move looked even better when Andersen put together his staff.
Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin has put together one of the more underrated runs: he was in charge of a Michigan State offense that ranked 10th in Off. S&P+ in 2005, he had Utah State ranked 30th by his third year, and he had Colorado State's offense up to 36th by his third year of working for Jim McElwain. He has proved adaptable and successful.
On defense, Andersen one-upped himself, landing up-and-coming coordinator Kalani Sitake, who had spent the last six seasons as Whittingham's D.C. at Utah. Utah only once ranked outside of the Def. S&P+ top 30.
I like virtually everything about this. But that statement also goes for most of the Pac-12.
No conference has done a better job of upgrading its coaching roster. Oregon (Chip Kelly, then Mark Helfrich), Stanford (Jim Harbaugh, then David Shaw), Arizona (Rich Rodriguez), Arizona State (Todd Graham), Washington (Chris Petersen), Washington State (Mike Leach), UCLA (Jim Mora), California (Sonny Dykes), and Colorado (Mike MacIntyre) have all made hires that were between sensible and awesome. Steve Sarkisian at USC was the least impressive of recent years, but he has his strengths and lots of margin for error.
Coaching is a zero-sum affair. Somebody has to lose every game. As good as Andersen could be in Corvallis, he also has to be better than a lot of the names in that last paragraph. And he's damn near starting from scratch at key positions. (First big decision on the docket: choosing which of a handful of freshman quarterbacks is going to run Baldwin's offense.)
Getting to or near the top of the Pac-12 North will require his best effort yet. It will also take time.
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 4-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 74|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|20-Sep||San Diego State||76||28-7||W||93%||34.8||99%|
|Points Per Game||25.7||89||31.6||98|
2. A misleading start
A few weeks in, it looked like this was going to be another one of Mike Riley's random success stories. After a string early in Riley's second stint in Corvallis -- the Beavers went to six bowls in seven years and won 28 games from 2006-08 -- the later years were defined by ups and downs. OSU's win total changed by at least two games each year from 2009-14, hitting rock bottom in 2011 (3-9) then surging (9-4).
The Beavers didn't look amazing in wins over Portland State and Hawaii, but they were good enough; then, against San Diego State, they were great.
And then the rest of the season happened.
- Average Percentile Performance (first 3 games): 78% (~top 30 | record: 3-0)
- Average Percentile Performance (first 3 games): 37% (~top 80 | record: 2-7)
The offense fell into a funk early in Pac-12 play, gaining 181 yards against USC and 221 against Stanford. And as the Beavers figured out how to move the ball, the defense fell apart, allowing at least 5.8 yards per play in four of the last five games and at least 8.2 against both Washington and Oregon.
The ups and downs resulted in what seemed like pretty standard full-season ratings: Oregon State ranked 65th in Off. S&P+ and 73rd in Def. S&P+. But both units looked far better and far worse than that for much of the season.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||42.0%||60||Succ. Rt. +||102.0||62|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||29.2||57||Def. FP+||103.0||33|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.0||90||Redzone S&P+||93.1||84|
|Q1 Rk||41||1st Down Rk||60|
|Q2 Rk||88||2nd Down Rk||65|
|Q3 Rk||57||3rd Down Rk||57|
3. A Dave Baldwin offense
In 2011, Baldwin's Utah State ran 75 percent of the time on standard downs and 46 percent on passing downs. With freshman Chuckie Keeton running the show, Robert Turbin, Michael Smith, and Kerwynn Williams combined to rush 34 times per game, with a decent amount of efficiency passing. And it worked. Despite a defense that hadn't come around, USU went 7-6 and scored 38 points on Auburn and 34 against Colorado State.
In 2014, Baldwin's Colorado State ran 53 percent of the time on standard downs and 29 percent on passing downs. Three running backs combined to average 25 carries per game, but quarterback Garrett Grayson threw 34 times per game, frequently downfield to All-American Rashard Higgins. CSU passed to set up the run and burned opponents deep.
There are three constants to a Baldwin offense: commitment to physicality, plodding pace, and acceptance of the talent on hand.
So what does that mean for Oregon State in 2015? A lot of rushing, probably. For one thing, the Beavers return a strong running back in Barrs-Woods, who broke through after early-career ups and downs. Barrs-Woods battled injury again, but in his last four games, he rushed 53 times for 378 yards (7.1); between Barrs-Woods, junior Chris Brown, and big JUCO transfer Tim Cook, the Beavers might have enough options to produce a solid, run-heavy attack.
That's good because, unless there's another Keeton-esque surprise, quarterback will be limited.
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Luke Del Rio||8||18||141||0||0||44.4%||0||0.0%||7.8|
|Nick Mitchell||6'2, 195||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8463|
|Marcus McMaryion||6'1, 199||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8406|
|Seth Collins||6'3, 186||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8113|
4. Got a quarterback?
Sean Mannion finally graduated after a productive four years behind center. And I do mean productive: 1,187 completions, 13,600 yards, 83 touchdowns. He cut his interception rate in half from his freshman year to his senior year, and he managed decent moments in 2014 despite turnover in the receiving corps.
Mannion's assumed replacement, Luke Del Rio, transferred. That leaves Baldwin to choose between two redshirt freshmen (Nick Mitchell and Marcus McMaryion) and an unheralded true freshman (Seth Collins). Baldwin and Andersen have proclaimed the desire for a mobile element, and there's a chance this offense resembles what they had during Keeton's freshman season.
Keeton was a steal, but they eased him into the role regardless. All they can hope is that the run is good enough to prevent second- and third-and-long situations.
When the freshman QB of choice does have to pass, he might have options. Victor Bolden is an efficiency quarterback's dream; he caught two-thirds of Mannion's passes last year, and if the goal is to have the QB throwing mostly on second-and-3 or third-and-4, Bolden could see a lot of action. Barrs-Woods could also be a frequent target.
If Baldwin gets an itch to send people deep, a couple of sophomores could help to feed those urges. Jordan Villamin is a terrifying combination: 235 pounds and 16.5 yards per catch. He will probably be used closer to the line, but he and Hunter Jarmon could provide big-play threats when necessary.
|Storm Barrs-Woods||RB||6'0, 203||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8448||121||766||5||6.3||6.5||42.1%||1||1|
|Chris Brown||RB||5'10, 205||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8781||22||91||2||4.1||4.0||36.4%||0||0|
|Victor Bolden||WR||5'9, 172||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8351||19||118||0||6.2||3.3||63.2%||1||1|
|Damien Haskins||RB||5'9, 224||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8525||13||49||1||3.8||6.1||15.4%||0||0|
|Tim Cook||RB||6'1, 235||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8494|
|Deltron Sands||RB||5'9, 180||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8398|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Victor Bolden||WR||5'9, 172||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8351||107||72||798||67.3%||23.2%||69.2%||7.5||-65||7.6||94.0|
|Jordan Villamin||WR||6'4, 235||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8529||63||35||578||55.6%||13.6%||63.5%||9.2||142||9.4||68.0|
|Caleb Smith||TE||6'6, 263||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8546||38||20||202||52.6%||8.2%||63.2%||5.3||-50||5.1||23.8|
|Hunter Jarmon||WR||5'11, 198||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8511||35||20||334||57.1%||7.6%||40.0%||9.5||87||8.2||39.3|
|Storm Barrs-Woods||RB||6'0, 203||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8448||34||26||179||76.5%||7.4%||52.9%||5.3||-126||5.4||21.1|
|Kellen Clute (2013)||TE||6'5, 256||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8115||27||19||159||70.4%||4.5%||68.0%||5.9||-61||4.9||21.0|
|Ricky Ortiz||TE||6'0, 238||Jr.||NR||NR||15||12||90||80.0%||3.2%||86.7%||6.0||-50||6.7||10.6|
|Rahmel Dockery||WR||5'10, 179||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8211||9||7||184||77.8%||1.9%||55.6%||20.4||102||20.9||21.7|
|Chris Brown||RB||5'10, 205||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8781||9||5||37||55.6%||1.9%||77.8%||4.1||-25||4.0||4.4|
|Damien Haskins||RB||5'9, 224||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8525||5||3||26||60.0%||1.1%||80.0%||5.2||-11||3.7||3.1|
|Malik Gilmore||WR||6'3, 217||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8789||2||1||15||50.0%||0.4%||0.0%||7.5||2||N/A||1.8|
|Xavier Hawkins||WR||5'7, 176||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8275|
|Brent VanderVeen||TE||6'5, 217||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8547|
|Ryan Nall||RB/TE||6'2, 252||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8033|
|Datrin Guyton||WR||6'5, 185||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8666|
|Paul Lucas||WR||5'10, 175||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8722|
|Noah Togiai||TE||6'4, 220||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8556|
|Tuli Wily-Matagi||TE||6'3, 230||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8457|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Isaac Seumalo (2013)||C||6'5, 310||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9872||23||2013 2nd All-Pac-12|
|Sean Harlow||LT||6'4, 298||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8640||21|
|Josh Mitchell||C||6'3, 306||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8114||15|
|Gavin Andrews||RG||6'6, 343||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8466||10|
|Dustin Stanton||RT||6'5, 289||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8394||6|
|Fred Lauina||LG||6'4, 315||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893||5|
|Bobby Keenan||LT||6'6, 282||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7785||0|
|Will Hopkins||OL||6'7, 267||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8132||0|
|Kammy Delp||RG||6'3, 340||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8590|
|Drew Clarkson||OL||6'3, 286||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8404|
|Yanni Demogerontas||OL||6'3, 288||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7900|
|Sosaia Tauaho||OL||6'4, 330||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Mike Fifita||OL||6'5, 280||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8467|
|Blake Brandel||OT||6'7, 275||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8447|
5. The line never had a chance
The line's run-blocking actually improved, from 83rd in Adj. Line Yards in 2013 to 71st. That's still mediocre, obviously, but any improvement was impressive considering the turnover.
Oregon State had to replace three who had combined for 111 career starts, then lost all-conference center Isaac Seumalo before the season. Oregon State ended up starting five different combinations; Gavin Andrews started at three positions, and two others started at two or more. The sack rates increased, but the run-blocking was steady, and that was a minor miracle.
Now Seumalo returns, as do five players who have combined for 57 starts. Andersen brought line coach T.J. Woods from Utah State to Wisconsin to Oregon State, and he should be able to do good things. And that's huge; if Oregon State can run, the Beavers are infinitely more likely to survive life with a freshman quarterback.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||42.0%||76||Succ. Rt. +||100.6||60|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||30.3||66||Off. FP+||102.0||38|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.8||108||Redzone S&P+||104.1||47|
|Q1 Rk||58||1st Down Rk||73|
|Q2 Rk||103||2nd Down Rk||73|
|Q3 Rk||7||3rd Down Rk||63|
6. A Kalani Sitake defense
Andersen doesn't do bad defenses. He was successful as Utah's coordinator, and he found great success working with coordinator Dave Aranda at Utah State and Wisconsin. Aranda stayed in Madison, so Anderson is getting reacquainted with Sitake.
Sitake's Utah defenses were do-it-all units. They were stout against the run, and their backs were active against the pass. Passing was a far less terrifying option for opponents in 2014, but the Utes still got hands on quarterbacks and the passes they threw.
Sitake has his work cut out for him. There are some exciting pieces -- senior end Lavonte Barnett is a solid pass rusher, Justin Strong was super active for a freshman safety (five tackles for loss, three break-ups), and Larry Scott's 11 break-ups suggest he can be pretty sticky and aggressive.
But the new blood extends far beyond the coaching booth. Oregon State is tasked with replacing its top three players at each level of the defense: line, linebacker, and secondary. Known quantities are far fewer than what Sitake was working with in Salt Lake City.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Lavonte Barnett||DE||6'3, 262||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8478||10||13.5||2.1%||5.5||4.5||0||2||0||0|
|Jaswha James||DE||6'2, 264||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8439||10||13.0||2.0%||2.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Luke Hollingsworth||DT||6'3, 270||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7600||8||8.0||1.2%||2.5||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jalen Grimble||DT||6'2, 291||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9160||6||5.0||0.8%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Titus Failauga||DE||6'3, 250||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8017||8||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ali'i Robins||DT||6'2, 289||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8010||8||1.5||0.2%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kyle Peko||DT||6'1, 317||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8607|
|Noke Tago||DT||6'2, 304||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Baker Pritchard||DE||6'3, 258||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8640|
|Kalani Vakameilalo||DT||6'3, 318||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8610|
|LaMone Williams||DE||6'2, 267||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8298|
|Sumner Houston||DT||6'2, 276||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8102|
|Elu Aydon||DT||6'3, 335||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8417|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Rommel Mageo||MIKE||6'2, 232||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||11||17.0||2.6%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Caleb Saulo||WILL||6'1, 232||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8152||11||4.0||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kyle Haley||SAM||6'0, 217||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8100|
|Darrell Songy||LB||6'0, 223||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8170|
|Manase Hungalu||MIKE||6'0, 229||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7556|
|T.J. Hufanga||MIKE||5'11, 237||So.||NR||NR|
|Bright Ugwoegbu||LB||6'1, 210||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8104|
|Jonathan Willis||LB||6'0, 209||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8019|
|Ricky Liuchan||LB||6'1, 237||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8266|
|Christian Folau||LB||6'1, 240||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8829|
7. Scary depth
Oregon State's depth was already questionable. The Beavers were good in the first and third quarters of games (58th in Q1 S&P+, seventh in Q3) and horrendous in the second (103rd) and fourth (110th), and the defense suffered far more miscues as the season unfolded, allowing 4.6 yards per play in September, 5.7 in October, and 6.6 in November.
And that was before nine starters were lopped off of the depth chart.
To their long-term credit and short-term detriment, Andersen and Sitake did not load up on JUCOs to stem the bleeding. This means more five-year players and better depth down the line, but it also means the Beavers will be taking the field with last year's backups and a bunch of redshirt freshmen.
The good news, as it were, is that the run defense probably isn't going to be any worse. OSU ranked 115th in Rushing S&P+ last fall, and you can only fall so many spots below that. The pass rush could be promising with players like Barnett and Luke Hollingsworth in the mix, but Sitake might find his attempts at aggression thwarted by inexperience.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Justin Strong||SS||5'9, 195||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8295||12||48.0||7.4%||5||1||0||3||1||0|
|Larry Scott||CB||5'11, 192||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7994||12||35.5||5.5%||2||0||0||11||0||0|
|Cyril Noland-Lewis||FS||6'1, 206||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8453||12||24.0||3.7%||2||2||0||0||0||0|
|Naji Patrick||CB||5'8, 192||Sr.||NR||NR||7||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kendall Hill||CB||6'1, 206||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7973|
|Devin Chappell||CB||6'2, 197||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Charles Okonkwo||CB||6'1, 190||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8560|
|Brandon Arnold||FS||5'11, 197||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8528|
|Chris Hayes||CB||6'1, 187||So.||NR||NR|
|Dwayne Williams||CB||5'9, 176||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7752|
|Adam Soesman||S||6'1, 200||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8475|
|Treston Decoud||CB||6'3, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8152|
|Shawn Wilson||CB||5'10, 165||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8498|
|Xavier Crawford||CB||6'0, 177||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8295|
8. Exciting but thin
Justin Strong and Cyril Noland-Lewis hinted at playmaking ability at the safety position, and Scott's a keeper at corner. You can build around that.
But they were basically the only returning DBs who saw the field, and there aren't exactly many star recruits coming down the down the pike. Sophomores Charles Okonkwo and Brandon Arnold are promising athletes, but the next big play either makes will be the first.
Is conservatism in Sitake's nature? On offense, you can see how a run-first, slow-it-down attack can benefit a young quarterback. But how do you slow it down on defense? Plenty of teams have thrived with a bend-don't-break approach, aiming to prevent big plays and force opponents to use 10-12 mistake-free snaps to score.
But while Sitake's Utah defenses weren't bonzai units like a Virginia Tech or Michigan State, they were aggressive. So were Andersen's. How much attacking will they be able to get away with? Can solid safety play cover up mountains of inexperience?
|Garrett Owens||5'9, 181||So.||29||59.2||6||0||20.7%|
|Garrett Owens||5'9, 181||So.||17-17||9-10||90.0%||2-3||66.7%|
|Rahmel Dockery||PR||5'10, 179||Jr.||8||6.1||0|
|Victor Bolden||PR||5'9, 172||Jr.||4||11.0||0|
|Special Teams F/+||70|
|Field Goal Efficiency||2|
|Punt Return Efficiency||99|
|Kick Return Efficiency||43|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||75|
9. At least Owens is strong
Oregon State might not have a ton of scoring opportunities in 2015, but Garrett Owens should assure that the Beavers finish with points when they get the shot.Owens bailed them out against both Portland State and Washington State last year, making nine of 11 field goal attempts in those two games. He also missed two against PSU in his first collegiate game, but he didn't miss another one after that.
It's unclear whether this unit can help Oregon State out at all in the field position battle, however. The Beavers will be breaking in a new punter and a new kick return man, and leading returning punt returner Rahmel Dockery did next to nothing last year. Field position could be an important battle for this limited squad; I'm not sure special teams will carry its weight in that regard.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk|
|19-Sep||San Jose State||105|
|17-Oct||at Washington State||66|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||9.9% (44)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||63 / 53|
|2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||4 / 3.2|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||+0.3|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||8 (6, 2)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||5.4 (-0.4)|
10. This is going to take some time
I might have liked the Andersen hire as much as any made in last season's carousel. But Riley did not leave Andersen a stocked cupboard, and after some offseason defections, the Beavers will have the thinnest two-deep in the conference.
Against this schedule, it would probably take a top-60 team to threaten 6-6, and I just don't see any way that even a good coach could pull off that, not with zero quarterback experience and so many new pieces on a thin defense.
The run game and sound defensive coaching will give OSU a chance at highlights. The Beavers should beat Weber State and San Jose State and remain close enough to have a shot against the trio of Washington State, Colorado, Washington, and maybe Cal. There's athleticism, and if Andersen finds some pieces, they'll have time to develop and thrive in coming years.
But this is a reset year, a Year Zero situation, in Corvallis.