COMMENTARY: Staff Shakeup Matter of Survival

FOR YEARS, Oregon State has proudly worn the mantle of overachievers, Corvallis becoming a Death Valley of sorts for ranked teams. Couple that with stunning road upsets against Top 10 teams like Arizona, and a Cal team poised to take the No. 1 spot in the country. The Beavers have become the bedtime story coaches tell overconfident players about respecting their opponent. But there's a flip side.

It's a nice story. Lunchpail U.

Kids overlooked by every other school in the country and Pac-10, happily rewriting the Beaver record books. Anecdotes here and there about Mack Brown stomping around the office, demanding to know why the Rodgers brothers are in Corvallis, not Austin. From Jonathan Smith to Mike Hass to most of the 2010 starting offensive line, the walk-on hero story has been a popular one in Corvallis. The diamond in the rough storyline is a good one, too. Now playing, the physically gifted man-child who discovers the game of football late in high school, and doesn't get a lot of attention because his technique is raw, starring Stephen Paea and David Pa'aluhi. This film is rated R for violent depictions of smashmouth football.

But there's a flip side to the ‘OSU evaluates better than everyone else' argument. Obviously, everyone on occasion is proven wrong in recruiting -- there are misses. Depth is another issue. When Oregon State's defense lost just two starters prior to 2010 fall camp, it they were immediately behind the eight-ball, forced to play guys that needed seasoning.

Commitment also comes into play. When you're drawing kids out of Texas and California who have played football since they were knee-high to their mothers, the very thought of quitting the sport that has dominated their lives is unfathomable. Not so when the hidden gem picked up the game late, (see Pa'aluhi and Matt LaGrone). And don't forget about the pink elephant in the middle of the room. Putting a heavy load on undersized players with a ton of heart also puts that player at a higher risk of injury, even the athletically gifted ones.

THAT'S WHY THIS coaching staff shakeup, letting go of Greg Newhouse and going younger and recruiting oriented, wasn't just a bold move by Mike Riley, it was a matter of survival.

The Beavers simply cannot continue to field between 40th-60th ranked recruiting classes and expect to continue to build the program at a consistent rate. This offseason, it was time to take the next step.

Riley has refused to throw assistants under the bus over his long coaching history, one reason why the departure of Newhouse, a talented developer and technician, was so surprising. But to use a hoops analogy -- the Beavers just cannot continue to be competitive 4-on-5. They can't keep playing a man down, and Newhouse was not the strongest of recruiters in looking back over the past several classes.

Additionally, during the ongoing street agent scandal, Riley's said the Beavers do things "old school" and refuse to get involved with such intermediaries and will walk away in such situations. That's admirable, and lets Beaver Nation breathe easier as the media digs for every shady deal they can find. But it also means their margin for error is smaller. It doesn't leave much room for individuals who aren't pulling their weight on the recruiting trail.

A lot of people weren't thrilled with the new coaching hires. Some wanted a bigger name recruiter -- like Matt Lubick, others wanted a deeper or more dazzling coaching résumé. But Oregon State, it looks from this chair, just got a lot better, and the case can be made these are two of the best hires in recent history.

Chris Brasfield is a high-energy young running backs coach with ties to the Houston/Texas area. And he can provide some insight into how to prepare for an in-state opponent who has ripped Oregon State's heart out three years running. Brett Brennan has a line item on his resume that reads recruiting coordinator, plus he has southern California ties.

Both are charismatic coaches – not a lot of experience but they do have high marks in recruiting. In other words, in the area that the Beavers needed to improve the most, they did. Emphatically.

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