2015 CFB Preview – Oregon State

    Oregon State BeaversGo to Team Page BeaversGo to Selection Page           Maybe Mike Riley did the Beavers a favor. By Rich

    July 1, 2015

    Oregon State
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    Maybe Mike Riley did the Beavers a favor.

    By Rich Cirminiello | @RichCirminiello

    The undeniable love for Riley in Corvallis hasn’t matched the results lately. So, when the coach up and left for Nebraska, sans any warning, it might have been the jolt Oregon State needed, but never would have initiated on its own.

    Enter Gary Andersen, another surprise job-hopper, who takes over a program that’s just 29-33 in the first five seasons of this decade.

    With Andersen in charge, 2015 figures to be an intriguing transition year. Not only will the systems be different on both sides of the ball, but the new man in charge operates with a no-nonsense demeanor that could require an adjustment period among Riley’s veteran disciples.

    Andersen has won at least nine games for three straight seasons … at two different programs. He helped resurrect Utah State from complete obscurity, highlighted by an 11-win campaign in 2012, and then went 19-7 in two years at Wisconsin. Plus, he’s a West Coast guy, more than a decade younger than Riley and armed with the personality and the blueprint to be an upgrade from his predecessor.

    Andersen’s first order of business has been to make his Beavers more physical and generally stronger in the weight room. Then, he and a well-designed staff must make a ton of depth chart decisions on both sides of the ball.

    Oregon State was hit hard by graduation. QB Sean Mannion—and his backups—are gone. And the defense is dealing with a vacuum of leadership and proven players. In many ways, the staff and the personnel will simultaneously be working with a clean slate in 2015.

    Now, the Beavers are not without talent; the backs and the receivers are underrated, and the front seven is a potential breeding ground for breakout candidates. But rookie quarterbacks Seth Collins and Nick Mitchell can’t play like rookies, and D-linemen Jalen Grimble and Kyle Peko need to finally fulfill their potential if this team is to outperform tepid forecasts.

    Once the shocker of Riley’s abrupt departure sunk in, Oregon State began to realize that it may have stumbled into a trade-up on the sidelines. Riley had peaked with the Beavers, while Andersen has a plan for turning around underachieving programs.

    He’s already started changing the process in Corvallis, from the systems and the playbook to the way the players approach offseason conditioning.

    Andersen will wind up being an upgrade, though there are too many new faces in key roster places to bank on significant dividends this soon.

    What you need to know about the offense: Buh-bye, pro-style attack. Hello, read-option spread. With the arrival of Gary Andersen and coordinator Dave Baldwin comes a starkly different approach to moving the chains. Unlike when Mike Riley was in Corvallis, Oregon State will now move at a faster tempo, often sans huddles, while focusing on igniting a running game that’s languished for far too long. Since the Beavers were abysmal with the ball in 2014, ranking last in Pac-12 in scoring and third-down conversions, change could be coming at the right time. Rookie QB Seth Collins could be coming at the right time, too, since his athletic ability has already been a nice fit for the philosophy shift. Assuming Collins beats out redshirt freshman Nick Mitchell, he’ll be supported by talented skill position players. Storm Woods and Chris Brown have feature back potential, and Victor Bolden, Richard Mullaney, Jordan Villamin and Hunter Jarmon form one of the league’s most underrated receiving corps. However, nothing matters if the O-line can’t remain healthy and block better than it did last fall. Everyone up front will improve if Isaac Seumalo can return from a foot injury that shelved him for all of 2014.

    What you need to know about the defense: Oregon State’s top six tacklers from 2014 were seniors, an indication of how much offseason work needs to be done by coordinator Kalani Sitake and his staff this summer. Landing Sitake, a riser in the ranks and an ace recruiter, was a coup for Andersen. The Beavers graduated proven veterans at each level, so everyone is essentially working with a clean slate. OSU will predominantly employ a 3-4 base, though Sitake will mix in a variety of different looks. He’s holding out hope that his D-line can play to its potential this fall, which hinges on DE Jalen Grimble staying healthy and NT Kyle Peko remaining academically eligible. The linebackers are young, but brimming with potential, as Darrell Songy and Bright Ugwoegbu prepare to cause mayhem from the outside. In the secondary, finding a partner for cornerback Larry Scott has been the team’s chief offseason priority. Redshirt freshman Dwayne Williams has the inside track, but he’s yet to face the challenge of incoming JUCO transfer Treston Decoud, who’ll challenge immediately.

    What to watch for on offense: A new era under center. Sean Mannion has graduated, beginning a new career with the St. Louis Rams. And among his 2014 backups, Brent VanderVeen is playing tight end, and Luke Del Rio and Kyle Kempt have transferred. In all likelihood, the trio saw the writing on the wall, namely the beginning of the Seth Collins era in Corvallis. Nothing is official, but the true freshman, who appeared headed for San Jose State, was one of the showstoppers of the spring. Young and raw, of course, but his elite athleticism will mesh nicely with an offense shifting to an up-tempo, read-option spread.

    What to watch for on defense: Don’t sleep on the linebackers. No, you don’t get better by losing vets D.J. Alexander, Michael Doctor and Jabral Johnson. But the new staff has been so impressed with the raw talent at the second level that it’ll employ more 3-4 sets just to get the best athletes on the field. While there’ll no doubt be the inevitable missed assignments and blown tackles, Oregon State loves its size and quickness at linebacker. With speedy Darrell Songy and Bright Ugwoegbu off the edge, and junior Caleb Saulo and Rommel Mageo inside, the Beavers will surprise opponents with their untapped linebacker potential.

    The team will be far better if… the Beavers finally begin to run the ball effectively. This has been an ongoing issue in Corvallis that’s rendered the offense perennially incomplete. Oregon State was last in Pac-12 scoring and 121st nationally in third-down conversions in 2014 largely due to an inability to get a push at the line of scrimmage. For new head coach Gary Andersen, a repeat of the past few season’s futility will be unacceptable. He and his staff want to run the ball with authority, but backs Storm Woods and Chris Brown need more help from their supporting cast.

    The Schedule:
    New Beaver coach Gary Andersen won’t have to wait long to face a Big Ten team again. The former Wisconsin Badger leads his team into in Week 2 to play Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines.
    – Once Oregon State returns home from its Michigan trip, it won’t hit the road again for almost a month, playing Arizona in Tucson on Oct. 10.
    – The Beavers get a short week—six days—to prepare for the Civil War, the annual battle with Oregon that takes place in Eugene this season.
    – The 2015 schedule is built for a fast start, if the Beavers are capable of taking advantage. None of the first three teams on the slate appeared in a bowl game a year ago.
    – The toughest games of the year are generally spread out, affording OSU a chance to catch its breath this fall. The Beavers play 2014 ranked opponents on consecutive weekends just one time, Oct. 31 (Utah) and Nov. 7 (UCLA).
    – WATCH OUT FOR … San Jose State. Classic sandwich game between a trip to the Big House and a marquee Friday night visit from Stanford. OSU better watch its back in Week 3.

    Best offensive player: Junior C Isaac Seumalo. Oregon State isn’t even sure that Seumalo will be back to 100% by the start of the season. But the Beavers are holding out hope that their best blocker—and best offensive player—will finally be off the disabled list be September. They need him. Without Seumalo, who can literally play anywhere on the line, was repeatedly trucked at the line of scrimmage in 2014. Plus, veteran G Gavin Andrews came up lame at the end of spring, so O-line depth might already be a concern for OSU in 2015.

    Best defensive player: Senior DE Jalen Grimble. Grimble is here for two reasons—potential and attrition on the OSU defense. The production is something Oregon State is still waiting on. Grimble has a high ceiling, and his agility at close to 300 pounds makes him a natural to slide out to end in 3-4 sets. Now, he just needs to remain healthy for an entire season, which was not the case a year ago. Grimble missed half of 2014 with a balky knee, a false start that prevented him from snaring some momentum for the first time since transferring from Miami.

    Key player to a successful season: Senior RB Storm Woods. The quarterback has zero experience. The new coach is taking a more conservative approach. If the Beavers have any hope of beating the odds this season, they better be able to run the ball with authority. Improving on last season’s mealy 3.8 yards per carry falls on the shoulders of both Woods and his offensive linemen. While few doubt the senior’s talent, durability issues and inconsistent blocking have kept him from a 1,000-yard season. Woods has to become the focal point that absorbs some of the heat from the passers and the retooled defense.

    The season will be a success if … Oregon State reaches four wins, or one more than a year ago. This program is undergoing a major overhaul, from the new staff to the loss of 13 starters. In all likelihood, Gary Andersen will kick off the Seth Collins era at quarterback, which means the offensive growing pains are pretty much a sure thing. And the D is long on potential, but light on proven players. Weber State, San Jose State, Wazzu, Colorado and Washington will be competitive, but the Beavers could be double-digit dogs in the other seven games.

    Key game: Nov. 21 vs. Washington. If the new staff has made progress, it’ll be evident in this visit from the Huskies. U-Dub is facing many of the same personnel problems as Oregon State, and both head coaches have yet to establish roots. So, this late-season matchup in Corvallis, while unlikely to affect the postseason picture, could be a referendum on whether Gary Andersen or Chris Petersen is making more progress on his respective campus. Plus, for the Beavers, who’ll travel to Eugene the following Friday, this could be the last chance for a while to win a celebrate a victory.

    2014 Fun Stats:
    – Third-down conversions: Oregon State 32% – Opponents 40%
    – Yards per carry: Oregon State 3.8 – Opponents 4.6
    – Second-quarter scoring: Oregon State 69 – Opponents 132

    Players You Need To Know

    1. C Isaac Seumalo, Jr.
    The Oregon State offensive line just wasn’t the same in 2014 without its best blocker. A recurring foot problem prevented Seumalo from ever taking the field last fall, but there’s cautious optimism that he’ll be back in 2015, with two years of eligibility remaining. In his first two seasons as a Beaver, he earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 as a rookie and Second Team All-Pac-12 in 2013. Plus, Seumalo is a 6-4, 310-pound bully, yet smart enough to handle any position on the line without notice. The Beavers desperately need him back at full strength this season.

    2. RB Storm Woods, Jr.
    If Woods can just stay healthy for the entire year, he has the skill set and experience to become the feature back new head coach Gary Andersen is seeking. Woods has rushed for 2,183 yards in three seasons, including a team-high 766 yards and five touchdowns on 121 carries in 2014. The 6-0, 203-pound playmaker has also caught 111 passes as a Beaver. But Woods, for all of his quickness and versatility, has never truly carried the offense in Corvallis. That could change in 2015, with the graduations of QB Sean Mannion and fellow back Terron Woods.

    3. WR Victor Bolden, Jr.
    Bolden took his first steps in 2014 toward offsetting some of the lost production left by the departure of superstar wide receiver Brandin Cooks. It’s a work in progress that’ll continue again this fall. Bolden is similar to Cooks in that he’s undersized, 5-9 and 172 pounds, and explosive. In fact, he’d probably beat Cooks in a footrace. Bolden’s debut in the lineup was marked by a team-high 72 catches for 798 yards and two scores, and 118 yards on the ground.

    4. WR Richard Mullaney, Sr.
    The Beavers are thrilled to be getting back Mullaney, who was limited by an elbow injury to just six games and 18 receptions a year ago. He’s a lot closer to the split end who caught 52 passes for 788 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore in 2013. The modern-day Mike Hass in Corvallis will make the tough grabs over the middle, and he has some of the stickiest hands on the team. Plus, at 6-3 and 209 pounds, Mullaney is going to provide the new starting quarterback with an easy-to-spot target.

    5. WR Jordan Villamin, Soph.
    An injury to Richard Mullaney created an unexpected opportunity for Villamin in 2014. And he made the most of it, finishing second on the team with 35 receptions for 578 yards and six touchdowns. At 6-4 and 235 pounds, Villamin brings tight end size to the outside, yet has the loping stride to get behind the secondary. He showcased soft hands in his debut to go along with the physicality to beat defensive backs on 50/50 balls that get thrown into traffic.

    6. DE Jalen Grimble, Sr.
    One more shot. That’s all that remains for Grimble to fulfill his potential. The former blue-chip recruit of Miami has yet to approach expectations, sitting out 2013 per NCAA transfer rules, and missing most of last year to injury. In 2014, he played in six games, starting three, and finished with six tackles. However, Grimble tore it up last spring, and still has explosive athleticism that emanates from a powerful 6-2, 291-pound frame.

    7. CB Larry Scott, Sr.
    As the only returning starter of a depleted Beaver secondary, Scott will be asked to take on a greater leadership role this fall. The first-time starter showed flashes—and lapses—in 2014, making 43 tackles and a team-high 11 pass breakups. Scott possesses the requisite size, 5-11 and 192 pounds, and athleticism, but needs to cover with more consistency to become the defensive backfield’s new front man.

    8. NT Kyle Peko, Sr.
    Is this the year that Peko finally becomes available for the Beavers? Fingers in Corvallis are crossed. He’s been working through eligibility issues since transferring from Cerritos (Calif.) College, and has yet to play a down for Oregon State. It’s a shame, too, because he’s been dominant in practice. Peko moves quicker than the average 6-1, 306-pounder, creating havoc in opposing backfields. Provided his books are in order, he’s a certain starter at the nose, with a shot to attract NFL attention in his final year of eligibility.

    9. SS Justin Strong, Soph.
    Whereas Larry Scott is the team’s veteran at cornerback, Strong is suddenly the team’s most accomplished safety. At 5-9 and 195 pounds, he’s not built like the typical, but he compensates with tenacity and a fearless approach to the game. In his first season of action, Strong played in every game at nickel, making 56 tackles, five stops for loss and a sack. He’s a natural playmaker, who sees the entire field well, despite his stature, and loves sticking his nose into the action.

    10. FS Cyril Noland-Lewis, Jr.
    Plenty of Beavers are taking advantage of job openings this offseason. Noland-Lewis has been chief among them since January. After serving as a dependable backup, and making 27 tackles and a pair of sacks, he’s prepared to be one of the physical and emotional leaders of the revamped secondary. The new staff likes his approach to the game and his 6-1, 206-pound frame. Noland-Lewis is poised to be one of Oregon State’s statistical leaders in 2015.

    Head Coach: Gary Andersen1st year
    8th year overall: 49-38
    Schedule
    Sept. 4 Weber State
    Sept. 12 at Michigan
    Sept. 19 San Jose State
    Sept. 25 Stanford
    Oct. 3 OPEN DATE
    Oct. 10 at Arizona
    Oct. 17 at Washington State
    Oct. 24 Colorado
    Oct. 31 at Utah
    Nov. 7 UCLA
    Nov. 14 at California
    Nov. 21 Washington
    Nov. 27 at Oregon
    Ten Best OSU Players
    1. C Isaac Seumalo, Jr.
    2. RB Storm Woods, Sr.
    3. WR Victor Bolden, Jr.
    4. WR Richard Mullaney, Sr.
    5. WR Jordan Villamin, Soph.
    6. DE Jalen Grimble, Sr.
    7. CB Larry Scott, Sr.
    8. NT Kyle Peko, Sr.
    9. SS Justin Strong, Soph.
    10. FS Cyril Noland-Lewis, Jr.

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