Who's going to do what for coach Mike Riley
CORVALLIS All about Oregon State football after a Tuesday interview with head coach Mike Riley.
During the process of hiring a replacement for offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, Riley figured he could go one of two ways.
Riley needed someone to coach his quarterbacks and his tight ends. Last season, Langsdorf -- who accepted a job as quarterbacks coach for the NFL's New York Giants a month ago -- coached the quarterbacks and grad assistant Kyle DeVan handled the tight ends.
One option was to hire a full-time coach to work with the tight ends and have Riley -- a pseudo-offensive coordinator who worked in tandem with Langsdorf -- take on the quarterbacks himself.
Riley went so far as to interview Jonathan Himebauch to coach the tight ends. Himebauch, 38, played center at Southern Cal when Riley was offensive coordinator there in the mid-1990s. Himebauch, who has coached several years in the Canadian Football League, spent last season as offensive line coach at Wake Forest.
"Jonathan is really smart, a very good coach," Riley says.
Riley knew if he hired Himebauch, "then I'd be the quarterbacks coach," the OSU coach says. "Really, that's a full-time job, a lot for a head coach to take on. I didn't know if I wanted to go that route. I still like coaching the whole team. There is an awful lot of preparation involved."
The other option was to hire John Garrett, a long-time NFL assistant coach who had once played for Riley in the World League and recently lost his job as wide receivers coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when head coach Greg Schiano was fired.
During the time Riley was working to replace Langsdorf, Oklahoma State made overtures at Oregon State O-line coach Mike Cavanaugh.
"I decided I was going to offer the job to John, and have Jonathan ready (as O-line coach) if 'Cav' chose to leave," Riley says. "I felt really comfortable with that. I didn't want to lose Cav, but I knew I was prepared."
Riley hired Garrett, and Cavanaugh chose to stay.
Riley selected Garrett after getting a call from the same man who had recommended secondary coach Rod Perry two years earlier -- Joe Baker, assistant secondary coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
"Joe said John was interested," Riley says. "I thought, 'I'm going to explore this thing.' "
Through the process, Riley had a list of 50 candidates.
"There were a lot of outstanding names, guys I was really intrigued with, guys like Al Borges," he says.
Riley also considered filling the O-coordinator job from within the program.
"We've kind of been in-bred for a long time," he says. "There is some good to that. I like the continuity. But ultimately, I decided to go out of the box to make this hire.
"I wanted a good person who would bring us a new perspective. Somebody who can say, 'What about this, Mike?' It's a chance for us to grow."
During his 15 years as an offensive assistant in the NFL, Garrett has coached receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks and served as passing game coordinator. Garrett played for Sam Wyche, Tom Landry and Marv Levy. Garrett coached with Schiano, Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet, Dick LeBeau, Vince Tobin, Wade Phillips and Garrett's brother Jason, now head coach in Dallas.
"John's breadth of knowledge is outstanding," Riley says. "He has a good, solid opinion, whether we're talking line play, protection, pass routes, quarterbacking, technique."
Garrett began the job two days before Riley and his wife, Dee, left for Hawaii for a week's vacation on Nike's annual college football coaches' trip.
Says Riley: "I told John, 'Watch our (video), learn who we are, and when I get back, we'll start talking. Your job is to learn what we do and find ways to make it better."
When Riley returned, he was pleased with how well Garrett had blended with the coaching staff and the players, including senior quarterback Sean Mannion.
"I would say things could not be better this early in the transition period," Riley says. "His interaction with the coaches is great. It's going to be fun. This will be a home run."
Garrett's experience is mostly with the pro-style offense Riley employs. But the O-coordinator isn't coming in to be a "yes man."
"What we'll do is tweak the offense," Riley says. "We'll add some things. I want John to be a decision-maker. He'll help decide what we should maintain, what's not working and what's good for us going forward.
"We can't put in a new kitchen sink. We have a senior quarterback who has grown up in the system. We can't change the language and make him re-learn stuff. We can't step backward that way. What we want to do is make it better for the quarterback. That will be leaving a lot of terminology in place, leaving a lot of concepts.
"That's why quarterbacks get better. You begin to learn the system as a freshman, and by the time you're a senior, you know everything. You don't want to mess with all that. You just want to make it better."
Riley expects plenty of input from Garrett.
"One thing I know," the OSU coach says. "John is not going to let me hold him back. He's going full speed ahead. He has the offensive staff together and they are interacting and growing right now."
For several seasons, Langsdorf called plays. In 2012, after Oregon State's 3-9 season, Riley took over the duties.
"I came back into play-calling because I thought it would be good for Danny and for all of us to do it," he says. "We needed a little changeup. I needed a changeup in my involvement."
Langsdorf wound up calling plays for the Beavers' final two games of last season, including the Hawaii Bowl victory over Boise State. Riley isn't sure who will call plays next season.
All things even, Riley would prefer that his O-coordinator call plays. There is much for a head coach to be concerned with on the sidelines during a game without having to worry about play-calling.
On the other hand, Garrett has never called plays before. And he'll be new to both the system and the players.
"John's an extremely intelligent guy, very capable," Riley says. "I'm not married to calling plays. But calling plays is a lot of learning. If he's ready to do that, and it's better for us, good. I'll make a decision on what's best for us. My ego is out of it. If he's ready, I'll just let him do it.
"I'd almost rather have my thoughts interjected into it rather than be the leader of the thoughts."
Riley was relieved when Cavanaugh chose to stay at Oregon State, seeing to it that his O-line coach received a salary increase.
"I feel like Cav is part of our identity," Riley says. "He has 10 years into this deal. He's well-respected by the players and by the people close to our program -- the fans and boosters who really know us. They think of Cav as a Beaver.
"It was a good confirmation for them that what they believe about him is true. He truly wants to be here. He was offered more money at a very good program, but he elected to stay with us."
Garrett will oversee coaching quarterbacks and tight end in addition to his coordinator duties. Grad assistants will help him at both spots -- Lyle Moevao at quarterback and Tavita Thompson at tight end. "Blocking is the most important thing with our tight ends," Riley says. "Tavita (a former O-tackle) will help a lot there."
Defensive grad assistants will be Keaton Kristick (linebackers) and Dorian Smith (line).
Among grad interns will be former OSU running back great Yvenson Bernard.
"It's exciting to have 'Ev' back with us," Riley says. "Whatever he wants to do in life, he'll be good at. One thing I know for sure. If he decides to get into coaching, he'll be a great addition to our profession. He has so many personal skills at the highest level."
Riley will also keep on staff Alan Darlin, the former Beaver middle linebacker who served as on-field grad assistant the past two years -- the maximum allowed by the NCAA.
"I'm going to keep a safety net for Alan," Riley says. "If he wants to stay on as a quality-control person, I will keep him. He has done an outstanding for us. We'd love to keep him, but we're also trying to help him get a job. He's ready for that. He just needs to get a break."
Other grad interns will include Hardie Buck, Beau Walker, Rod Perry Jr. and Ryan Perry.
Spring practice begins March 31. Over the next month, OSU coaches will focus on installation of offensive and defensive plans and recruiting for the 2015 class.
Offensive coaches will spend mornings preparing for spring ball and afternoons watching video of potential recruits. Defensive coaches will have opposite schedules. Coaches from both sides will meet each day to discuss recruiting.
Former OSU receiver Brandin Cooks won a $100,000 prize offered by Adidas for running the fastest 40 time (wearing Adidas shoes) at the NFL Combine at Indianapolis -- 4.33. It was the fastest time recorded by a receiver at the combine. Cooks was also the top performer among receivers in the 20-yard shuttle (3.81) and 60-yard shuttle (10.72).
"I've talked to some NFL people today," says Riley, head coach of the San Diego Chargers from 1999-2001. "They said Brandin is elevating his (draft) status with that time. The combine is mostly about measurables. When you run that fast, people's eyes open up. People know he is fast, but when they see it at the combine compared to every other elite player in the country, that's a good thing for him."
Riley says insiders tell him Cooks is likely to go in the late first round or early second round.
"Brandin is going to be a great pro," Riley says. "He's going to be a great member of an organization. He's that kind of person and player."
Former OSU defensive end Scott Crichton got mixed reviews, running 4.84 in the 40, with 24 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press and a 31 1/2-inch vertical leap.
"Scott is kind of a mystery," Riley says. "His measurables weren't off the charts, but I saw where one expert had him ranked as the fourth-best defensive end. He's a very good player. Where does that transfer in the NFL world? I'm hoping he'll go to the right team and have a productive career."
Former OSU cornerback Rashaad Reynolds ran 4.51 in the 40 and was the top performer at his position with 20 reps in the bench press.
"Rashaad will make an NFL team," Riley says. "He knows how to play, and he has good ability. His 40 time wasn't off the charts, but corners are so hard to find. He's a smart corner who knows how to play football, and he's mentally tough."
NOTES: Rahmel Dockery, who left Washington State's program before last season, has informed OSU coaches he intends to transfer to Oregon State. Dockery, 5-10 and 175 pounds out of Tacoma, was recruited heavily by the Beavers out of high school before choosing the Cougars. He started at WSU as a receiver and redshirted the 2012 season. He was switched to cornerback but left school before last season. Dockery is currently enrolled at a junior college and is expected to join the OSU program for August training camp as a walk-on. He would be immediately eligible with three years to play. Quarterback Luke Del Rio, transferring from Alabama, will be on hand for spring ball but will have to sit out next season. Quarterback Zach Kline, who left California's program after last season, continues to communicate with OSU coaches that he will transfer to Oregon State. Kline will be at Berkeley City College through spring term and be on hand for August training camp.