CORVALLIS Ñ It is early Ñ very, very early Ñ in spring drills at Oregon State, but Richard Seigler says he notices a difference between the coaching staffs of Dennis Erickson and Mike Riley.
'I never thought we would have the kind of coaches we have now,' the all-Pac-10 middle linebacker says. 'We have a lot of cool, easygoing coaches. They definitely have discipline, but they don't want to come in here and be hard-asses right away.'
Seigler pauses, then smiles.
'I'm sure by the time the season comes around, some of the coaches who seem laid-back will be a little more fired up,' he says.
Erickson and Riley are both popular and likable, but while Erickson has an edge to him, his successor is as genuinely friendly as a puppy dog.
'Coach Riley is one of those authentic, old-fashioned good guys,' Seigler says. 'He is always in a good mood, happy to coach and it rubs off on you. Taking nothing away from coach Erickson Ñ I really enjoyed playing for him Ñ but coach Riley has had such a positive effect on this team already. He makes you feel happy to be playing for this man.
'Hopefully we can take him to the Rose Bowl his first season back.'
The Beaver defensive alignment under Riley will be much like it was when Erickson was the coach ÑÊa 4-3-4 with plenty of blitzing.
'The system has a couple of different twists and turns, but it has the same principles,' Seigler says. 'No drastic changes. There has been a good connection (between coaches and players). We believe in the new system already.'
Erickson had pondered moving the 6-3, 240-pound Seigler to outside linebacker to exploit Seigler's speed, but Riley probably will keep him right where he is.
'Richard sure looks like a middle linebacker to me,' Riley says. 'He looks like he has all the physical qualities of a great linebacker. He is big and fast, smart and has a real passion for the game. He wants to be successful and for his team to be successful, and you can't have too many guys like that.
'Defensive football is a little like baseball. You want to be strong down the middle, from your safeties to tackles. Middle linebacker is a focal point, and I'm not anxious to mess around with that.'
Riley says he has enjoyed getting to know Seigler, an affable, well-spoken native of Las Vegas who has embraced Corvallis and the state of Oregon.
'He has thrust himself into what is available here, like horseback riding and going to the coast and the mountains,' Riley says. 'He has opened up his horizons a little. When you find yourself in a new spot, it is important to try to experience some of the area, whether it turns out to be a lifelong experience or not. Not too many people can verbalize how they feel about those kinds of things, but this young man can, and that impresses me.'
Notes: The Beavers have completed six of 15 spring practice sessions. The first scrimmage is 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Reser Stadium. 'I am going to go slow into the scrimmage deal,' Riley says. 'We might go 30 to 40 plays instead of 60. I want to do a lot of learning right now. I don't feel the need to go live all the time. We get a lot of good physical work when we are in pads. The only thing we don't do is take the runner to the ground. Everything else is pretty much full speed.'
Receiver Cole Clasen and defensive end Noah Happe have been excused from spring drills to concentrate on academics. Clasen also is rehabilitating a foot injury that nagged him last season. É The only freshman already in school is quarterback Danny Southwick from Provo, Utah. 'He looks like he has a strong arm,' Riley says. É All 23 of Erickson's recruits have indicated they will honor their commitments. A few might not qualify academically, including Lebanon's Zach Hagemeister and Lake Oswego's Keith Robertson. If that happens, OSU's coaches will monitor their academic progress and hope to enroll them later next year.
Riley, who coached in the NFL the last four years with San Diego and New Orleans after guiding the Beavers in 1997-98, has enjoyed his return to OSU and the college level. 'It's a blast to be out there with these young guys every day,' he says. 'You are at an earlier stage in a player's life, and there is more to deal with instead of just football. I'm glad to be back to that part of it. It's more what you would describe a teaching position rather than just coaching.
'I don't mean to slight the pros, but it encompasses more than just walking out there and telling them how to do things.' É Riley is impressed with the improvement in facilities on campus. 'And there has been a transformation about how the kids feel about the football program,' he says. 'They expect to win, and that wasn't the case six years ago.'
About 120 coaches from all over the Northwest attended a clinic conducted by the OSU staff last weekend. Speakers included Linfield coach Jay Locey, NFL assistants Geep Chryst and Bruce Read and former NFL head coach Joe Bugel. 'I want this place to be a coaches' place, where coaches can come if they want to watch practice, watch film and hang out with us,' Riley says. 'Our staff had a great connection with coaches in the state the last time we were here. I would like to re-establish that. When I was a young coach, a lot of coaches opened up their doors to me, and I remember how much it meant to me. I want to give that back if I can.'