What were your expectations for the Beavers this season?
Did you want them to double last year’s win total? Or were you just hoping to see progress game by game without embarrassing blowout losses? Perhaps, you thought they could go bowling with a little luck here and there?
The Beavers did improve from two wins in 2015 to four wins this year. They also appeared to improve as the season went on, especially on the defensive side of the ball. And I think we can all agree we wanted the Civil War drought ended — and the Beavers delivered.
However, don’t overlook whom the Beavers defeated en route to a 4-8 record: A Big Sky team that finished 2-9 (Idaho State) and three Pac-12 squads with terrible defenses (Cal, Arizona, Oregon). How bad were those defenses? They ranked 10, 9, and 11 in total defense respectively.
So, let’s be honest the Beavers still have a lot of work to do in order to get back to being respectful and competitive in the deep and brutal Pac-12 North. And you know where it all starts?
Before you groan and exclaim, “Not this again. Stop beating a dead horse,” hear me out. Yes, the Beavers need better play from the quarterback next season. There’s no question about it. But they also need to get better at pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
Too often last year, quarterbacks seemed to have all day to throw against the Beavers, who recorded just 18 sacks on the season, tying them for last in the Pac-12. Consequently, they finished dead last with just seven interceptions. All things considered, the OSU secondary did a remarkable job this season, as the Beavers finished fourth in the Pac-12 in passing defense. Defending the pass is not easy, especially if the front four/seven/etc. isn’t generating consistent pressure.
And the Beavers MUST improve in that area in 2017 if they want to take the next step in their rebuild. Not only are they having to replace stalwarts in the secondary in Treston Decoud and Devin Chappell, but young, talented quarterbacks such as Jake Browning, Josh Rosen, and Justin Herbet all will be a year older and wiser, presumably.
Simply put, good teams get pressure on the QB. Washington, which won the Pac-12 North and then the conference championship, was second in sacks with 37, while Colorado, the Pac-12 South winner has 35. So if you follow that simple logic, the Beavers must get to the QB more, a lot more, if they want to move up in the standings.
For that to happen, the front seven needs to be more disruptive. The good news is most of the pieces are in place, they just need to continue improving and receive a little boost. Up front, several of the defensive tackles showed promise last season (The DTs will get a huge boost with the addition of highly ranked JUCO transfer Craig Evans!), and most of the pieces of talented and deep linebacker corps returns. It’s at defensive end the Beavers need players to step up, such as healthy Kenny Turnier and an eligible Issac Garcia.
Now that we’ve got that settled, what about the Beavers’ quarterbacks? I’ll keep it short and simple. The coaching staff needs to identify their guy and stick with him, through ups and downs. The musical chairs affair at QB in recent seasons hasn’t helped anyone.
Honestly, the pressure is on quarterbacks coach Kevin McGiven. It’s time to for him to live up to his accolades and his co-offensive coordinator title, especially considering the staff is bringing in JUCO pocket passer Jake Luton to shake things up. What if he isn’t able to push the other QBs? What will it say about this staff’s ability to evaluate and develop arguably the most important position on the field.
Look, Marcus McMaryion isn’t a world-beater, yet, but he was the best QB the Beavers had last season and should be given every chance to be the starter in 2017. It’s amazing what a little confidence can do for a player. Or maybe things have finally clicked for both McMaryion and the staff. At the very least, it should be a more open battle than this past spring when Darrell Garretson was all but handed the job. Interestingly enough, where will he fit in next season?
Again, competing in the Pac-12 is no cakewalk, so the Beavers desperately need a QB to rise to the occasion and improve the play at the position. Otherwise it’s hard to see the Beavers improving on this season, despite a favorable early season schedule.
So, when you think about it, 2017 really will come down to the quarterbacks for the Beavers. On offense, they need a strong, consistent signal caller; on defense they need to rock opposing QBs often. These are two crucial areas that could be the difference in OSU continuing to improve or staying stagnant.
With all this in mind, how do we set our expectations for next season? Does six wins really mean that much if the Beavers continue to struggle in crucial aspects of the game?
It’s all eyes on the QB time in 2017 for Beaver Nation…