Oregon State Preview 2016: After an awful season, Gary Andersen should have his Beavers on the way up.
Good news, Oregon State fans. The only way is up from here.
When he left Wisconsin for Corvallis, Gary Andersen inherited a decaying situation from Mike Riley that actually wound up being far worse than originally anticipated. The Beavers descended from a perennially plucky and relatively steady program to shades of the pre-Dennis Erickson days, when 10-loss seasons were the norm.
Not only did OSU go 2-10 in 2015, including winless in Pac-12 play, but it was also rarely competitive after halftime. It was the school’s worst year in two decades. And the hits continued after a season-ending eighth-straight Civil War loss to Oregon, as part-time starting QB Nick Mitchell, top LB Rommel Mageo and FS Justin Strong left the program. One-time quarterback of the future Seth Collins bolted too, but will return to compete at wide receiver.
The Beavers are in a bad state, so patience is sorely needed in the coming years.
Andersen proved he could build while at Utah State, starting slowly in Logan before guiding the Aggies to 11 wins and a Top 25 ranking in 2012. A similar trajectory will be needed in the Pacific Northwest, because Oregon State lacks the talent to simply flip a switch and become a postseason contender.
Andersen is going to receive an offensive boost from a former recruit, Darell Garretson, who has all but locked up the quarterback job. The undersized junior represents a major upgrade behind center, which will greatly help the team’s primary skill players, beefy RB Ryan Nall and complementary receivers Victor Bolden and Jordan Villamin.
While the offense can see a glimmer of hope, new coordinator Kevin Clune’s D is still flying in the dark. Losing Strong and especially Mageo hurts, because this was already a middling collection of defenders. Clune is tough, but the task ahead is even tougher after the Beavers ranked 114th nationally in yards per play allowed. Every level faces question marks, and if a handful of former backups fail to take charge Oregon State will again struggle to compete in a conference with as many gifted skill players as the Pac-12.
Reviving the Beavers will continue to be a long and incremental process measured in more than just wins and losses. This is a multi-year rebuilding project that’ll require the staff to develop young players and the fans to taper their expectations. Oregon State, which has dropped 17 of its last 21 games, is realistically building toward 2017, because the upcoming campaign has all the markings of a third losing season in a row.