Riley assembles staff, prepares for spring drills
New OSU coach has a busy two weeks of meeting and greeting
The past two weeks haven't been merely busy for Oregon State football coach Mike Riley. The fortnight has proved to be, in Riley's words, 'kind of a whirlwind deal.'
Since being named as Dennis Erickson's successor on Feb. 24, the man who is also Erickson's predecessor (1997-98) has kept a presidential-type schedule that has left him long on everything except sleep.
A sample of his itinerary:
Feb. 24: Flew from his home in San Diego to Corvallis, where after signing a seven-year contract worth $5.575 million, plus incentives, he met with Beaver players.
Feb. 25: Attended news conference in Corvallis. Attended booster function at Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland. Met with OSU's top recruit, quarterback Ryan Gunderson of Central Catholic. 'I really like the family and enjoyed talking with them,' Riley says. Flew to San Diego.
Feb. 26-28: Flew to New Orleans, where he worked the past season as assistant head coach-secondary coach of the Saints. Packed seven boxes from his downtown apartment and seven boxes from the office to be sent home. 'I gained a new appreciation for my wife (Dee) after all our moves,' Riley says. 'I had never packed a box in my life.'
March 1: Flew to Corvallis. Since then, has completed a coaching staff that includes three assistants he will announce today:
• Lee Hull, who coached at Holy Cross the last four years, played for Riley in Winnipeg and coached with him in San Diego, will coach the running backs.
• Charlie Camp, an assistant coach at the University of Arizona, will coach linebackers. Camp's brother, Darryl, was an offensive lineman at OSU in the mid-'90s. Charlie's wife is a native of Roseburg.
• Darryll Lewis, a long-time NFL cornerback who played for Riley in San Diego and had just been hired for the staff at the University of Idaho, will coach cornerbacks.
Others named to the staff were offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, defensive coordinator Mark Banker, offensive line coach Jim Gilstrap, wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander, and Greg Newhouse, who coached the linebackers under Dennis Erickson but will move to the defensive line. Newhouse also coached under Riley during his first stint at OSU.
Riley still has to hire a special-teams coach. Bruce Read, who filled the position under Riley at OSU and in San Diego, is now with the New York Giants and will probably stay there.
Jonathan Smith, who played two seasons of quarterback under Riley at OSU, will remain as offensive graduate assistant. Riley has yet to hire a defensive grad assistant.
'I think we will have the best coaching staff in the Pac-10, I really do,' Riley says. 'It's an outstanding group of coaches and an outstanding group of people.'
Riley recruited a handful of next year's seniors Ñ James Newson, Dwan Edwards, Shamon Jamerson, Dan Rothwell, Tim Euhus and Noah Happe.
'That gave me a little bit of a head start,' says Riley, who has begun monitoring the players' twice-a-week winter workouts. 'I am getting to know the rest, and that has been fun.'
The landscape of OSU football has changed dramatically since Riley's first tour of duty began in 1997. The Truax Center allows the Beavers to practice indoors in inclement weather.
'The indoor facility was our dream when I was here before,' Riley says. 'I remember visualizing a scene with Gill Coliseum, the indoor facility, the practice fields and then Weatherford Hall, my favorite building on campus. I thought it would be a pretty picture.'
Reser Stadium expansion is on the horizon. Riley will be heavily involved in the fund-raising effort.
Expectations have risen exponentially since Riley's first stop at OSU. In his mind, that is nothing but positive.
'The pressure is always there,' he says. 'I know when we are doing bad. I can have one person or 1,000 people tell me, it doesn't matter, I know. And I know when we are doing well. There was pressure here before. People were talking about the future of the program.'
Riley pauses and chuckles softly.
'I went through a little bit of pressure coaching in the NFL, too,' he says, recalling his three difficult seasons as head coach of the San Diego Chargers.
'This is all exciting to me,' he says. 'It is great to have more people interested, more people passionate about it, more people talking about it. I know what the ramifications of winning and losing are. I have been through all that. I am just very thankful Oregon State gave me another opportunity to coach here.'
Riley, who turns 50 in July, knows many of those questioning his hiring wonder if he will leave again if another NFL club beckons.
'I would ask the same question,' Riley says. 'All I can say is, I proposed the $1 million buyout in my contract (if he leaves before five years). I told people right after the San Diego experience, if I can get one more job, preferably on the West Coast, I would stay there and make it work. I am thrilled it happened to be Oregon State. I had no idea it would work out that way. In my mind, (this) is forever.'
Riley passed on an offer to coach at his alma mater, Alabama, because he was being considered for the UCLA job. After the Bruins hired Karl Dorrell, 'I came to regret the Alabama decision a little, because that was a place in my past that I had a chance to coach. How many opportunities are you going to get in this business? When does that go dry? To have this happen when it did is miraculous.'
NOTES: Craig Bray, the defensive coordinator who was so successful in his four years at OSU under Erickson, will not be a member of Riley's staff. 'I don't know what I'm going to do,' Bray said as he cleared out his office on Tuesday. 'I was hoping it would work out here.' Riley spoke with Bray about coaching the secondary but chose not to hire him. Bray said his son Trent, a promising freshman linebacker, will remain at OSU. É Riley also spoke to Bruce Read, who had been his special teams coach at OSU and with the Chargers and is now with the New York Giants, and Eric Yarber, who was Erickson's receivers coach at OSU. Riley says both were very interested, but Read chose to stay in New York and Yarber has joined Erickson in San Francisco.
Riley says no veteran players have told him they are leaving school, and all 23 Erickson recruits have indicated they will honor their commitments.