The Oregon State Beavers beat the University of Arizona on Saturday night. The Beavers getting the win was a good sight for Beaver Believers, but to me that isn’t the bigger story. The bigger story to me is what head coach Gary Andersen is quietly building up in Corvallis, Oregon.
When Gary Andersen arrived at Oregon State a couple of years ago there was certainly an upbeat in expectations. Under then head coach Mike Riley, things around the football program had become quite stale. There was no excitement, playing calling was predictable, and the program just seemed stuck in neutral. The Beaver football program as well as their fans needed to be shook up.
Sometimes lightning strikes when you least expect it. Unexpectedly, Mike Riley accepts the head coaching job at Nebraska. Riley to Nebraska? What were the Beavers to do now?
To say the program was in a bit of chaos would have been an understatement. Getting quality coaches to come to Corvallis is a chore unto itself. The history of winning isn’t there, there are no recent conference championship banners, and it’s a small town. Mike Riley was born and raised in Corvallis and Dennis Erickson was raised in the Northwest, so getting these guys to Corvallis wasn’t as tough as it would be for somebody from Texas or Ohio.
The Beavers decided to look towards Wisconsin.
Enter Gary Andersen. A coach that has a history in the Western part of the country. A coach that was known to recruit good athletes and a coach that runs a clean program.
When Gary Andersen accepted the job at Oregon State there were collective eyebrows being raised from Corvallis, Oregon to Madison, Wisconsin.
Gary Andersen assured Beaver fans that his players would play hard, represent themselves with class, and represent the university in fine fashion. That was all well and good, but the fans wanted the team to win.
For a long time Beaver fans have looked at their rival in Eugene explode onto the college football scene, winning conference titles, go to National Championship games (not win though), and become the darlings of many college football fans. Jealousy was rampant among Oregon State fans. They won’t admit that, but there was.
Once Gary Andersen saw what kind of talent was left by Coach Riley he knew he was in for a complete rebuild. A rebuild that would require being pretty bad. Could Andersen get fans to buy into his vision?
I believe the Beaver Believers are buying in.
To be totally transparent, I am an alumni of Oregon State and watching the first year of the Gary Andersen era was tough. The talent level was not even on a Pac-12 level to me. It seemed like we were a division two team playing a division one team every week.
Recruiting was going to be so important for Andersen and the ability to show the fans that they could at least compete with the other Pac-12 schools on the recruiting trail and on the playing field.
With his 2017 recruiting class Coach Andersen is making some in roads with high school players. Part of the reason he came back to the West is that he knows the region and the pathways to get to players. Andersen has gone to the junior colleges to help with immediate needs and has used the high schools to help build the depth for his team.
One example of getting quality players lies within the hallways of Chandler High School in Chandler, Arizona. This is a program that wins state titles and is in the conversation for titles any given year. Ex-Beaver Markus Wheaton is a Chandler High grad, so there may be a connection with Oregon State and Chandler High through Wheaton. Whatever the connection is, there is a steady stream of talent heading to Corvallis from Chandler.
Coach Andersen has just got his first four star recruit in Isaiah Hodgins from the talent rich lands of California.
On the field, anybody that pays attention to the Beavers can certainly tell the difference between year one and this year. The Beavers still show their youth and that they are in the middle of a rebuild, but they are not as an easy out as they were last season. Oregon State competes with everybody.
Gary Andersen has a team that would run through fire for him and believing in the process to be a successful team. Beaver fans have to be encouraged by what they see and what the future may hold for the Oregon State football program.
Follow Mike on Twitter @pigskinopinion or email Mike at Nikebeav@gmail.com