Riley goes right to work
- Kerry Eggers
- Portland Tribune - Sports
• Oregon State's schemes on both sides of the ball won't look much different
Mike Riley Era II is under way at Oregon State, only 45 days before spring practice and 190 days until the season opener Aug. 30 against Sacramento State.
Riley, hired Thursday to succeed Dennis Erickson, made the Beavers competitive in his two previous seasons as OSU's head football coach. Under Riley, the Beavers went 3-8 in 1997 and 5-6 in 1998, when they suffered three Pacific-10 Conference losses by a total of four points before beating Oregon in the season finale.
This will be the Corvallis-bred Riley's 14th head coaching season. It also is his chance to pick up where he and Erickson, now head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, left off.
Here's how the Riley Beavers may shape up:
•ÊThe recruits: The new coach's first order of business is to schedule meetings with Oregon State's 22 recruits.
Erickson's final recruiting class was left in the lurch when he left for the 49ers, less than a week after letter-of-intent signing day. Riley wants to talk to all of the recruits to reassure them that they are in good hands and that the program will continue to thrive.
•ÊOffense: Oregon State's schemes (on both sides of the ball) won't look much different than the ones employed by Erickson's teams over the last four years.
In 1998, Riley went exclusively with a one-back offensive set, with Ken Simonton amassing record yardage as the running back and Jonathan Smith throwing to tight end Marty Maurer and three wide receivers. Riley even used a double tight-end formation a lot in Oregon State's 44-41
victory over Oregon that year.
•ÊDefense: Riley's philosophy is similar to that of Craig Bray, the OSU defensive coordinator under Erickson: a 4-3 umbrella look in the secondary, with plenty of blitzing.
'The better the personnel, the more you come with the blitz,' Riley says. 'It was a pretty smooth transition for Dennis after our years, and I think it will be the same way for me.'
•ÊAssistant coaches: Riley has a staff all but in place. He hopes to hire Paul Chryst and Mark Banker Ñ both members of his previous OSU staff Ñ as his offensive and defensive coordinators. Chryst served as tight ends coach at his alma mater, Wisconsin, last season. He was Riley's offensive coordinator at OSU and his tight ends coach with the San Diego Chargers. Banker, Riley's secondary coach at OSU and with the Chargers, was co-defensive coordinator for Stanford last season.
Others lined up to serve Riley include: Greg Newhouse, the Beavers' current linebackers coach; Eric Yarber, receivers coach; Bruce Read, Riley's ex-special teams coach at OSU and San Diego and currently special teams coach of the New York Giants; Jim Gilstrap, offensive line coach under Riley at OSU; and Danny Langsdorf, once a graduate assistant at OSU and now an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints.
Also, Smith could return for his second year as a graduate assistant coach on offense.
•ÊRecruiting: Big pluses for Riley are his personable style and ability to recruit, especially in the West.
He recruited 16 of the 24 starters on Erickson's 11-1 Fiesta Bowl team.
On offense, Riley recruited quarterback Smith, tailback Simonton, receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, tight end Maurer, center Chris Gibson, guard Keith DiDomenico, tackle Mitch White and place-kicker Ryan Cesca.
On defense, Riley recruited ends DeLawrence Grant and LaDairis Jackson, tackles Eric Manning and Dwan Edwards, linebacker James Allen, cornerbacks Keith Heyward-Johnson and Dennis Weathersby and safety Calvin Carlyle.
Riley recruited Oregon State's leading career passer (Smith), rusher (Simonton) and defensive points leader (Weathersby), along with James Newson, who is likely to set the school career receiving record next fall.
•ÊEncore performances: Riley's return as head coach at the same Pac-10 school is rare, especially in recent years, but not unprecedented.
The last time it happened was at Southern Cal with John Robinson Ñ ironically, Riley's last college boss. Robinson was head coach of the Trojans from 1976-82 and from 1993-97. Riley served as Robinson's offensive coordinator during his second tenure at the school.
Stanford's Bill Walsh (1977-78 and 1992-94) is the other modern-era coach to have returned to the same school.
At Oregon, Tex Oliver served as coach from 1938-41 and 1945-46. John Warren was the Ducks' coach in 1942, and there was no team the next two years because of World War II.
A coach has returned to OSU only once before Ñ when it was known as Oregon Agricultural College. Bill Bloss was the school's first coach in 1893, left after one season, then came back in 1897.