Hello everybody I am very pleased to be here and bring along with me Sabby Piscitelli whose done such a great job in our program. I am looking forward to a great senior year from him. He was elected one of our captains and deservedly so.
We are, like everybody, excited about the start of a new year. We feel like we've had a productive off-season, good spring practice, a great commitment from our team and hopefully have grown a lot.
We have a number of exciting things going on that I think when you look at our offense our entire offensive line starting group is returning, our tight end Joe Newton is returning, our running back Yvenson Bernard is returning our quarterback is returning. We have big shoes to fill at receiver, that's probably the biggest question mark at this time. Who is going to make those plays that Mike Hass made for so many years for us? But I feel good about the core that is heading into camp.
Defensively, we slipped a little bit overall, I think we ended up fourth in the league last year and we were again at the top of the league in rush defense. But we played three freshman in the secondary to go along with Sabby and so we took our lumps there, but I am excited about that fact that those guys gained the experience back there. I thought they had a great spring in our secondary so I am feeling pretty good about that.
Our linebacking core, we lost two really good linebackers in Trent Bray and Keith Ellison, both first team All-Pac-10 players and like I tell people all the time I think Oregon State is Linebacker U and we have a great core of guys there.
Overall I am very excited about our team. We have good solid people returning and they have made an outstanding commitment during the off season.
:: Questions ::
Q: What makes you
optimistic about Matt Moore improving dramatically this year?
A: Riley - I think people forget that Matt played a little bit as a freshman and he was really like a sophomore quarterback (last year). I think Matt has ability, a good arm, extremely tough and very competitive and, I think this is correct, the most productive returning quarterback in the Pac-10. We went through some of the lumps that everyone does starting new quarterbacks in this league and he was new, new to us and our system.
I still look back at some of the plays he made. I thought he made some tremendous plays. We obviously turned the ball over too much, had too many interceptions. My feeling is that through the year of experience, a year with our offense and the growth through playing in all the games last year...I am looking forward to a good year from Matt Moore.
Q: Because the way the schedule drew up last year, you didn't play USC. This year the conference switches to the nine game schedule. Could you share you thoughts on going to the full round robin?
A: Riley - I like the fact that it's a full round robin schedule. It's most equitably. Everybody gets that opportunity every year and you can kind of count on the sequence of where your going to go. I like the 12 game schedule and that fact that we are playing everybody in the conference every year.
Q: Have there been past years where you thought that not playing everybody in the league can cause an inequity in the conference race?
A: Riley - It can always bring up a question mark depending on how it ends up. This is the most fair way to do it. Sometimes with that two year cycle we went through and, depending on how the computer spit it out, it wasn't always equitable. It seems like you'd play someplace for three years. We go to Washington for the third year in a row this year and so we will be off of that deal forever. We will be going back and forth with them. And Washington State comes to us for the third year in a row. Those kinds of things can be eliminated and there can be some kind of continuity in the scheduling because of that.
Q: Why do you think your team finished so poorly last year? You were sitting pretty well and heading for a bowl and a big win over Cal and things went kind of south for you. In reviewing it, what do you think happened and what are you doing to make sure it doesn't happen again this year?
A: Sabby - The biggest thing that happened last year was we kind of lost the momentum. You said we beat Cal and Cal was a great ball club last year and beating them at their place gave us a lot of momentum. We came back and we had a lot of confidence in ourselves and we got a little momentum going. There isn't anything in particular that you could pinpoint.
Our team kept working hard and our practices were the same. A couple opportunities didn't go our way...a couple plays we couldn't make that could have changed the game. One play can make a game and those little things that we didn't do correct. Like I said it wasn't one big thing to pinpoint.
Q: Against Arizona last year, Matt Moore struggled against their secondary. What are your thoughts on Arizona's secondary this year given all the expectations being heaped upon it right now?
A: Riley - I think Arizona has a good defense, a good defensive scheme and now an experienced secondary. Guys that are playmakers. Their obviously an impressive lot. Matt threw for a lot of yards in that game but had way too many turnovers and that was really the difference in the ball game. When you play them you have to be on time with the ball and the receivers have to be doing their deal right too to get open because those guys are good.
Q: Can you talk about the conference race please?
A: Riley - I think this is a year that is going to be very, very competitive. I think that we can talk our cliché talk as coaches about every ball game is a tough one but I think it is really real. Our conference top to bottom is very, very interesting.
I think you have to give USC their due credit for what they have done and accomplished over the last couple of years. I tell you there are a lot of good teams in this conference and the teams that have been down are rising up and it will be very interesting.
Q: Can you talk about Sammie Stroughter. Is he a guy you want to get the ball to on returns and receiving and can he help fill some of that void?
A: Riley - Sammie has played a returner a couple of years. He played as a true freshman. He is a very solid individual that is one those guys that needs to rise up for us. The receiving group is very interesting to me, it was in spring practice and will be in fall camp. Sammie is part of the forefront of that deal. He is the starting split end basically replacing Mike Hass. He has big shoes to fill but he is going to step up and do the job for us there.
Q: With the return of Joe Newton, can you talk about his size and what that means to the running and passing game?
A: Sabby - Joe is tremendous player. He has so many attributes that he brings to the game, like his size and speed. Even as a defensive player at Oregon State going against him everyday it made us better as a defense and especially myself. Him just returning to the offense opens up so many more doors and opportunities and options.
We could run the ball to his side and he is a tremendous player in the redzone and that is one of the biggest things that we are looking forward to this year...having that extra weapon back. He's so versatile that our offense can do a lot more and spread the ball out. I think it is going to be a big, big plus for Oregon State this year.
Riley - We obviously missed Joe and couldn't make much of it as we went into the year because he was out very early. He's got a lot of respect on the team. Sabby, Joe, Matt and Yvenson were elected by our team as captains. That tells you a little bit about the feelings that the team has for them. He is a quality individual and a guy that brings a lot to the table in football. A guy that can run, catch the football and is a good blocker.
Q: You mentioned Moore being the new guy last year. What kind of difference do you see from him this year going into his second year?
A: Riley - He said something interesting to me at spring practice this year. He said, "This will be first time I have run the same offense two years in a row." Something happened in high school where they changed coordinators from a junior to a senior. Then of course he went to UCLA and then came to Oregon State. So in his fourth go around, you could say, in terms of offensive systems, this will be first time that he is able to basically repeat and learn from his experience of playing in the same system.
That is the beauty of a quarterback over any player in football, growing in a defensive system or offensive system and getting better in that system. That will be one of the most important things for Matt going in. A better understanding of what's going on and what he can do with the football in the system.