Offseason Can't End Soon Enough

Pardon me for a moment while I preach to the choir – the final six weeks of college football's annual hiatus can't end soon enough.

If you're like me, and I'll go ahead and assume you are, you've long since finished reading your Lindy's and forgotten your Athlon. Some weeks ago you moved full steam ahead into debating the relative value of returning starters and newcomers from Pullman to Tucson.

You’ve waited, as Oregon State fans, nearly eight months so far – nine by the time this fiasco is over with, searching for solutions to unanswerable questions and praying for two things definitely. That Mike Riley truly is good enough to keep the Beavers’ momentum moving firmly forward – and that OSU’s defensive cupboard is full enough to replace the immense talent that departed Corvallis in January.

Dan Norz/
Beaver Nation is anxious for the 2003 football season to begin.

Now for the love of God and sanity of all minds orange and black can we play some freaking football, because until Kirk Yliniemi kicks the pigskin to Sacramento State, and really not until eight days after that, when OSU revisits hellish Bulldog Stadium, are we going to have a semi-clear picture of the state of O-State football sans Dennis Erickson.

There are things we already do know about this team. One year later the young Beavers have gained in valuable experience, mental maturity and physical prowess. Riley’s offense, more diverse and less gimmicky than the one left behind by Erickson, should better utilize the entire offense’s ability and create a potency not seen in the mid-valley since the Beavers held through a fiesta. The schedule is favorable – two of the four teams consistently picked in the top-half of the Pac-10 (Washington and Arizona State) must play in Corvallis. This is good news considering the Beavers have lost only three home games since Riley won the 1998 Civil War game and two of those victories belong to UCLA.

In reality you can look at OSU’s schedule and fail to pick out a clear game that Oregon State can’t win. The only question marks -at Fresno State, at Oregon and at USC. It’s reasonable to assume that if the Beavers merely play up to potential, and take the Bulldogs seriously they leave the valley 2-0. Oregon looks shaky and ready to become the first of the Civil War combatants to yield an opponent victory on their home field since 1996, and like the Fresno State game, if the Beavers play their game and not Oregon’s, they should win. Only time will tell what is on the horizon when OSU visits USC. The Trojans have more talent than anybody else in the Pac-10 and they brutalized the Beavers last season, but they also have to replace Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, tailback Justin Fargas and defensive super-star Troy Polamalu.

We know, and suspect the players and coaches know too, Oregon State just might have the pieces of the puzzle in place to run the table in the regular season. That’s a big might though, and that’s exactly why waiting for this hellish off-season to draw to a conclusion has become so difficult.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
USC will once again provide a formidable opponent for the Beavers.

It’s what we don’t know that is killing us right now.

Will the defense adequately replace the first linebacker chosen in the NFL draft and two senior cornerbacks who seemed able to lock up any receiver on their watch? If so, will that defense hold the opposition at the rate we grew accustomed too under the direction of Craig Bray? Is a legitimate second receiving threat ready to step forward? Is Derek Anderson more mobile? Is Derek Anderson more comfortable in the pocket? Is Derek Anderson the gunslinger he was against the Bulldogs and Ducks last season or the deer-in-the-headlights he was against the Trojans?

Is there any relief to this torture? The only answer we know for sure is relief is still more than a month away, and that doesn’t do much to make me, or you, feel any better.

Ryan Gabriel started his journalism career in at Oregon State working for the Barometer. He has worked for the Gazette Times, the Associated Press, and a host of other newspapers on the West Coast. Gabriel recently joined the staff and can be reached at

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