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Behind enemy lines: Oregon State Beavers

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With the matchup between No. 21 Stanford and Oregon State looming on Friday night, The Stanford Daily’s Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) was able to get an insider’s perspective of the Beavers through Brian Rathbone (@brathbone3), the sports editor at The Daily Barometer, the student newspaper of Oregon State University.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): How surprised were you when Mike Riley dropped everything and left for Nebraska? How did the team feel about the departure, and how did it affect the program’s momentum?

Brian Rathbone (BR): When the news broke, I was very surprised, to say the least. Riley mentioned several times in the past that he had wanted to make Oregon State his final job, making claims that he wanted to be considered the “Joe Paterno of the West Coast” after having turned down jobs such as USC and Alabama in the past.

The team was blindsided by the news. A couple of days before Riley announced that he had accepted the Nebraska job, he had held meetings with the players where they planned out winter training and spring camp. Then he drops the news in an unscheduled team meeting, leaving many of the players thinking, “What now?”

TSD: On that note, how well has the team taken to Gary Andersen and his leadership? Does the program see Andersen as a long-term solution?

BR: The team has responded extremely well to Gary Andersen and the new staff that he brought in while buying into the “Respect the Process” mantra. Andersen is a well-established coach with an impressive track record for the work he did at Utah State and Wisconsin. He brings a different energy and enthusiasm than Riley, and the players have been very welcoming to that.

I think the best example to use about how the team has bought into the new regime is redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jordan Villamin. After weighing in at 240 a season ago, he was challenged by the new coaches to get into better shape and is now playing close to 20 pounds lighter than a season ago.

TSD: Oregon State failed its only real test of the season so far in a blowout loss to Michigan. Is this season destined to be a rebuilding year for the program?

BR: Since the 2014 team finished with only five wins, lost Sean Mannion and was going to replace a majority of last season’s starting defense, 2015 was destined to be a rebuilding year regardless of who was coaching. Because of the coaching overhaul it’s difficult not to call this a rebuilding year because they are starting completely from scratch with entirely new offensive and defensive schemes.

TSD: Sean Mannion was the Beavers’ rock in the pro-style offense that they used to run, but now with the dual-threat Seth Collins at the helm, the offense looks drastically different. Is this new system a good fit for the Beavers’ personnel?

BR: Getting Seth Collins on campus during the spring was very important for the Beavers, who are losing one of the most prolific passers in Pac-12 history. Collins is much more suited to run this up-tempo, read-option offense that new offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin has installed than Mannion, whose skill set was much more suited for Riley’s pro-style offense.

The offense is well-equipped for the changes, the zone-blocking schemes are similar to what they ran under Riley, and the receiving corps is talented with diverse strong points. Villamin is the big, deep threat, Victor Bolden can be used in a variety of different ways, including coming out of the backfield, and Hunter Jarmon can do it all. Although they are still learning the offense, the addition of Collins has made the transition go much smoother.

TSD: Stanford could be without starting quarterback Kevin Hogan on Friday due to an ankle sprain he suffered against USC. In your eyes, how does that affect the potential matchups between the two teams?

BR: I’ve actually thought about this a lot since hearing that Hogan may not be able to play on Friday. On one hand, he does not put the fear of God in you when he takes the field, he doesn’t put up gaudy numbers and he isn’t going to be a NFL quarterback. So when you look at that, it doesn’t seem like that big of a loss. On the other hand, he is a winner. He has won 26 games in his career, won multiple conference titles and has a Rose Bowl win under his belt. I think that he is a winner and that’s such a valuable attribute at the quarterback position. So if he can’t play that will greatly benefit the Beavers.

TSD: What do you expect the Beavers’ strengths and weaknesses to be on Friday? How do you expect those to match up with Stanford?

BR: The strength of the team the entire season has been the defense. Although they gave up 35 points against Michigan, a large part of that was due to the offense only running 16 plays in the second half compared to the 44 plays ran by Michigan. Unless they get worn down like they did against Michigan, which could happen since there are many similarities between Michigan and Stanford, the defense will cause problems for Stanford just as it did early on against Michigan.

TSD: Can the Beavers pull off the upset as a 16-point underdog at home? What does Oregon State need to do to win? What’s your prediction for the game?

BR: Oregon State is usually good for an upset at Reser Stadium. Whether it’s knocking off USC when the Trojans were a national power or knocking off Arizona State a season ago, the Beavers usually find a way to win a game they shouldn’t. This could be that game. With Hogan’s health in question and the fact that the Beavers have already played a physical team in Michigan, the Beavers have a fighting chance. Despite all of that, I think Stanford is much further along as a program and is coming off a big win against USC. This will be a close game into the third quarter, but Stanford pulls away and wins 24-14.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Do-Hyoung Park '16, M.S. '17 is the Minnesota Twins beat reporter at MLB.com, having somehow ensured that his endless hours sunk into The Daily became a shockingly viable career. He was previously the Chief Operating Officer and Business Manager at The Stanford Daily for FY17-18. He also covered Stanford football and baseball for five seasons as a student and served two terms as sports editor and four terms on the copy desk. He was also a color commentator for KZSU 90.1 FM's football broadcast team for the 2015-16 Rose Bowl season.