A sea change in OSU recruiting under Andersen

GARY ANDERSEN HAS yet to name all of his assistant coaches at Oregon State. But he’s already expressed major confidence in what he and the assistants who have been named at OSU are going to do out on the recruiting trail.

“I’ll put this staff up against anybody’s staff in America by the time we get it done (in recruiting),” Gary Andersen said in a radio interview on KFAN this week. “It’s going to be fun to get us all back together again… it’s going to be fun to see what these guys can do when they can recruit together again.”

It’s instructive to note Andersen said “by the time we get it done.” The pool of available uncommitted recruits for this class is small – it is for any coach who takes a new job in December. Andersen has a matter of weeks to finalize and put together his class and some of those who were verbally committed to OSU under Mike Riley who don’t fit Andersen’s eye have been encouraged to look elsewhere.

That doesn’t mean Andersen and staff won’t flip some good gets to Oregon State, and win a recruiting battle or three for a prospect with other Pac-12 offers in the weeks before Signing Day – that’s virtually guaranteed. But the 2015 class won’t be representative of the recruiting that’s to come for the 2016 class and beyond. There’s just not enough time and there are loads of guys who long ago made their decisions.

Andersen’s named staff to this point consists of six assistants, many of whom have worked before with him at either/and/or Wisconsin, Utah State and Utah: defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, Ilaisa Tuiaki, Chad Kauha'aha'a and Derrick Odum will be assistant coaches but their positions have not yet been announced, T.J. Woods will be on the offensive side of the ball but his position has not yet been announced and WRs coach Brent Brennan is the lone member of Mike Riley’s staff who will be retained.

Andersen has said his goal is to get his offensive coordinator on board Saturday (today) but whether an announcement will take place is anyone’s guess. As to why most coaches have not been officially assigned position groups, Andersen has said he wants his coordinators to have a say in who the assistants are and what positions they will coach.

IT’S ALWAYS A tough call for a new head man when he takes over late in the year when it comes to the recruiting class that’s been assembled by the outgoing coach: How many do you let go, how many do you lose, how many do you retain?

“The most important thing to me is to be honest, tell them where they sit,” Andersen said when it comes to recruits who were committed by the previous staff that may no longer have OSU offers under Andersen. “It is kind of a tangled web that we weave when we get into those situations but it’s good as long as you’re honest and up front and truthful. And there are some hard conversations that have to be made.”

It may seem harsh but Andersen makes this strong point: he said he’d much rather be open and honest now than to have that prospect come to him in a year or two and complain that he could have gone elsewhere and had a more productive athletic career.

THERE’S ANOTHER LAYER to it all when the new guy is already a head coach: How many, and who, do you try to bring with you from your previous school to your new one?

On that topic, Andersen in a different radio interview said he had a cordial, frank discussion with Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez after he took the Oregon State job.

He said he told Alvarez that if he felt the recruit pledged Wisconsin because of a deep-seated tie to the school, he wouldn’t go after them. He said if it was more a relationship-based commit to the coaches, then Andersen was going to recruit that player and try to get him to come to Oregon State.

For the most part, the vast majority of verbal commitments are members of the latter group. As much talk as there is about a recruit needing to commit to a school itself, in practice it’s about the coaches. It just is.

That doesn’t mean Andersen is going to flip a bunch of Wisconsin pledges – some in the group Andersen recruited to Wisconsin might not fit what he’s going to do at OSU, there’s the geographical element for many and then there’s the whole bird-in-the-hand thing from the prospect’s viewpoint. But it will be intriguing to watch how things begin to unfold, and especially when in-home visits and official visits to campus open back up starting on Jan. 15.

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