'This is a good time of the year'

When spring football concludes at the end of April there will still be four months before the season kicks off, but Oregon State head coach Mike Riley says that much of his team's success or failure has to do with spring practice and the progress his players make.

There are several goals Riley has for his team in April. Improving the running game, developing the passing game and finding replacements at linebacker and defensive tackle are just a few of the targets. However, the most important part of spring ball is the chance for the coaches to work with each player enabling them to get better.

"The returning guys that did well have to get better," Riley said. "You're going to do one of two things, your going to get better or not. We want to really build confidence and feel really good about what were doing up front and really grow."

Riley also stressed they must find a playmaker at receiver as well.

"And then find receivers that will make plays. Somebody that will step up. That's all going have to be proved."

Several players are in the mix at receiver. Riley mentioned Anthony Wheat-Brown, Brandon Powers, Sammie Stroughter, Anthony Crosby, and hopefully Marcel Love, if he qualifies, as potential playmakers.

Historically, a large part of Oregon State's identity is utilizing the tight end. Unfortunately that part of the team's mold was swept away when Joe Newton tweaked his knee and missed all of last year. As a result red zone and third down efficiency suffered while the playbook tightened up.

The team did find balance though between the run and the pass as the offensive line jelled and running back Yvenson Bernard proved to be a multidimensional workhorse. Eight starters return, including all five offensive lineman, giving the Beavers a fantastic returning group to build around and develop.

"I'm looking forward to improvement and growth because even though we were good, we can be better," Riley said. "We'll expand our running game a little bit."

And by expanding the running game Riley hopes it will help the passing game. The sixth year coach mentioned that there is a certain comfort level with Newton returning to the lineup and if Love qualifies it will be like having two starters back.

Despite energized talk about redshirt freshman Sean Canfield competing for a starting spot, the plan is for all three quarterbacks to get lots of repetitions with Matt Moore as the incumbent and Canfield and Ryan Gunderson battling for No. 2.

"Matt had a really good off-season, starting with the rehab and then working out with the team," Riley said. "I think you have to earn that position first to get there and be able to compete for a starting spot."

On defense there are holes all over the place as the team must replace two defensive tackles in addition to all linebacking spots. He expects Ben Siegert to be a leader at defensive tackle with Curtis Coker and fall transfer Gerard Lee to compete for the other tackle position.

The Corvallis native called Joey LaRocque, who is already on campus, and Danzell Issac, who is coming in the fall, "Beaver" linebackers while mentioning part time starter Derrick Doggett and special team's standout Alan Darlin as players who will be a major factor in OSU continuing the tradition of a good linebacking school.

As for the secondary all four players return after a year of experience under their belts. Riley says there are four things needed to play in the secondary – character, perseverance, toughness and the ability to play – and all four returning players have each characteristic. He even said that the cornerback position is a positive on the team.

"I'm excited to make a big step there because those guys have the kind of character that will take advantage of the chance to play," Riley said. "and they will take off, I really believe that."

As for the defense on the whole it will take a collective effort to get a better pass rush. Not just the defensive ends or the linebackers, but a team effort to improve.

"This is a good time of the year," Riley said. "I've always said that spring practice, fall camp kind of determine the identity of a football team. We've got a lot of work to do. We've have quite a few returners, but there is growth in every area that we can obviously make."

Spring practice starts on Mon., April 3 at 3:30 p.m.

Press Conference Notes:

  • TE Joe Newton has been running and lifting with his teammates while playing catch with Matt Moore and is almost at 100%. At the end of last year, Newton asked Riley if he could play in the Civil War which Riley did not allow.
  • LB Andy Darkins will have surgery on Apr. 5 on his bicep. Worst case scenario is he will not return to football.
  • Riley said they sign junior college players that have a great opportunity to start, no for depth. He hopes Clinton Polk and Dorian Smith will enroll in the spring term in time for practice.
  • Wants his team to be a consistent threat with both the run and the pass, they were a good first down passing and play action team last year
  • Said two of their best receivers aren't receivers – Newton and Bernard
  • There is plenty of depth at all positions for everyone to get repetitions except tight end where there is Newton and Jason Vandiver. To give them a rest they will run four receiver and/or three receiver/two back sets.
  • The Civil War loss is motivation to work harder. So is missing a bowl game.
  • Says the Pac-10 will be very balanced this year
  • The key to a winning season is to get better every week, referenced the 2005 and 2004 seasons. In 2005 the Beavers were 4-2 and faltered. In 2004 they were 1-4 and took off playing there best football of the season in their final two games.
  • Not worried about Moore's confidence, loves his toughness
  • Loves Newton coming back because the defense can't cover two guys on the same side of the field. The interior passing game will improve with Newton, but they will only be successful if a receiver steps up to be a playmaker on the outside.
  • DE Keith Robertson may be here in the fall.
  • The full press conference transcript can be read at OSUBeavers.com.  Additional news and notes can be viewed on the premium message board.


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