Coaches Corner

The excitement continues to build for fans in the South and the Northwest as the head coaches recently talked with the media about Saturday's much anticipated match-up. Oregon State head coach Mike Riley and LSU head coach Nick Saban were gracious when talking about each other's teams and both focused on the fact that the Sept. 4 battle will set the tone for each of the team's seasons.

"We feel real good about where we are right now - in our offensive line and at our receivers," Riley said. "but we all know that the proof is in the pudding. Doing it in practice is in one thing, but producing in the ballgames is another one. It's time for us to get going and see where we are."

Oregon State entered fall camp with a host of question marks. Who is going to help Mike Hass? Who is going to step up on the offensive line? Is special teams play going to improve from a year ago? Several receivers stepped up at the receiving position during fall ball turning a question mark into what could be a Beaver football strength.

"I think the talent at receiver is good. There have been some guys step forward, and I think through this process we haven't only solidified who is going to start but also guys who are going to play in the ballgames," Riley said. "Like at slotback, I feel real good about Marcel Love and Brandon Powers; they've both done a nice job. At flanker, I feel good about both Anthony Wheat-Brown and George Gillett. And at split end, Mike Hass and Josh Hawkins have done well and Sammy Stroughter has kind of entered into this picture." Riley is also pleased with the progression of tight ends Joe Newton and Dan Haines and despite saying he would prefer not to do a running back by committee it looks like the Beavers will use their three talented backs to keep the opposing team off balance.

"I never wanted to say it but I think it will be somewhat by committee," Riley said. "I think we will have a first- or second-down back or backs that we'll rotate in, and I think we'll have a third-down back who will play more in those situations initially than the others." The coaches began preparing for LSU during spring camp and the team has been focusing on the game plan for the LSU since the last week in August. The men in black did not do anything special to simulate the weather or crowd noise in Baton Rouge. The coaches told the players to come to camp in the best shape of their young lives, and most of them did, as very few players missed practice due to injuries.

Corey Webster and Marcus Spears are just a few of the All-American players that OSU will have to try and contain. LSU's team speed is outstanding and their defense is skilled at disguising their defensive packages. To counter the Tiger's defensive schemes Oregon State will mix up their offensive sets and protection assignments to keep the Tigers thinking. The Beavers must have a balanced offense to have a chance at winning the game.

"I think one of their keys has been that they've been so good against the run, they've forced teams into one-dimensional games. They get ahead and the other team is forced to play their game, and when you do that, you're asking for trouble because you're seeing a lot of different kinds of pressure," Riley said. "The only way to try to combat it is to have some form of balance in the ballgame. Florida didn't necessarily run the ball real well when they beat them last year until near the end, but they did keep trying to run the ball and they found a little bit of balance in that game. But very few other people did."

Another key to the game will be special teams play and the Beavers face one of the most dangerous return men in the country in Skyler Green. The good news is punter Sam Paulescu has lived up to expectations and has been very consistent. His strength and hang time will be vital in the field position game.

The crowd will be going nuts, the environment will be hellish and the task formidable, but the Beavers remain upbeat and excited, never intimidated.

"We're not going to face any tougher environment and we're not going to play a better team - maybe as good - later on down the road, but this is a very good football team," Riley said. "and I think our next step has to be to go play the game. And that's going to be the biggest factor, is not being intimidated or worrying about the tiger or the crowd or the whole deal; we've just got to go play good football."

I've mentioned many times that we're looking for guys to make plays in ball games, and our season will be determined as we grow and then, more importantly, as we get into our conference - that's where we make our bread and butter; that's what determines our season as we go through it. Whatever those risks are, I think the preparation for what a guy has to do to play in a tough environment, to play in a tough football game against a good football team - this can be part of tremendous growth for us."

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