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Raju's Take: Beavers must move forward, not backward

Writer Raju Woodward takes a look at the Beavers rebuilding process in terms of improvement, not just wins and are the Beavers seeing that improvement week in and week out?

Rebuilds usually aren’t fun. While a new coaching change can be exciting and rejuvenating, the pains that come along with it can be challenging and trying, as is the case with the OSU football program.

The definition of rebuild according to Marriam-Webster:

  • to build (something) again after it has been damaged or destroyed 
  • to make important improvements or changes in (something)

Depending on whom you ask, Mike Riley left the cupboard bare (damaged seems a little too harsh, but you get the point…). It’s the second definition that seems fitting for what Gary Andersen and his staff are trying to do at OSU.

Going into this season, it seemed that the Beavers would make strides and grow toward a big 2017 season, even if it didn’t translate into wins. After all, the QB play figured to be better, Ryan Nall was firmly entrenched at running back, plenty of JUCOs and incoming freshmen would shore up the defense, etc. Fans expected improvement.

That’s what a rebuild is all about, right?

But a third of the way through this season, it appears as if the Beavers are going backward. What was looking like 2-3 year rebuild is now looking like 4+ year rebuild, and who knows if OSU can wait that long, with fellow Pac-12 rivals stepping up their game, on and off the field.

Unfortunately, look no further than the QB situation as prime example of taking one step back, not forward. Since the Minnesota game during which Darell Garretson completed 62 percent of his passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns, OSU’s quarterbacks have completed 52 percent of their passes for 463 yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions.

You’ll notice I said quarterbacks. That, itself, is just as perplexing. All last season, we heard how OSU’s best was the one redshirting. Then before Spring Ball, it was announced he would be a team captain this season. Certainly, it meant that Garretson would be an upgrade and provide the Beavers with consistent play at QB. And his debut against Minnesota, despite two fumbles, did nothing to change that assumption.

But after completing just 50 percent of his passes against FCS Idaho State, and being benched against Boise State and Colorado, Garretson has regressed. He’s especially struggled with the deep ball, missing open receivers. Even more damning is the fact that he’s has been unable to get into a rhythm and be consistent. It’s a far cry from spring and fall camp, during which he shined regularly.

And while walk-on Conor Blount provided a spark against Boise State in the second half, let’s not fool ourselves; he’s hardly been a world-beater. He came back to earth against Colorado, with an 8-of-16, 45 yards, and two interception-performance. Blount is young, but it’s hard to envision him being the long-term solution at QB.

In any case, both players took steps backward and not forward, and at this point, it’s difficult to see how and when they will be able to make major strides, as the Beavers head into the grueling part of their schedule. Much less if they have to watch over their shoulders.

After last season’s maddening QB carousel of Seth Collins, Nick Mitchell, and Marcus McMaryion, Garretson was supposed to put an end to it all, only for this to happen. Mason Moran? Step on right up. In all seriousness, I hope the coaches keep him redshirted. If anything, why not give McMaryion a shot? He can’t do any worse, and might provide a boost like he did in last year’s Civil War.

But the bottom line is that OSU’s quarterbacking situation hasn’t improved from last season, and that’s why all eyes need to be on the coaches. They need to put their players, from the QB to the long snapper, in the best position to succeed.

Yes, the offensive line has struggled and is a work in progress, but Garretson’s inconsistent play is especially surprising, considering he played for co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kevin McGiven at Utah State, and knows his offensive inside out.

Is it possible McGiven isn’t as good as the hype suggests? Are him and co-offensive coordinator TJ Woods still trying to figure out what they want to do? Maybe it’s a little of both. Or maybe stepping up to Power 5 football is presenting McGiven some challenges. It’s hard to fathom, considering outside of Kalani Sitake, he seemed to be the biggest coup by Andersen while he was building his initial staff at OSU.

The harsh reality is that this isn’t limited to just the quarterbacks and their coach. They just happened to be the easiest to break down and discuss at the minute, given the Beavers are coming off a 6-point outburst against Colorado. But the wide receivers, defensive line, etc. all are struggling to move forward. Sadly, you could argue they, too, have regressed.

So, when thinking back to the definition of rebuild, you don’t always have to measure a rebuild in terms of win. Rather, think of it in terms of improvements. And that’s what this season needs to be about for the Beavers, strong and continual improvement.

That’s why if they continue to regress and struggle to compete, OSU’s rebuild could take much longer than anticipated and test the patience of Beaver Nation — and at that point, will Andersen and Co. be around to see it all the way through…?

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