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Receivers, tempo, mobile QB all likely part of plan for 2015 in Beavers' revamp



Photo Credit: COURTESY OF DAVID BLAIR - Coach Mike Riley ponders the flow of the Civil War game Saturday at Reser Stadium, a 47-19 loss to Oregon that figures to prompt some internal changes for Oregon State before the 2015 season.Beaver Nation is up in arms about Oregon State's 2014 football season, and the head coach feels the same way.

"A definitive statement from me: We have to make changes," Mike Riley said Sunday, a day after his team got rolled 47-19 in a Civil War mismatch with second-ranked Oregon at Reser Stadium. "We're going to explore the best way to do it. We won't do it overnight and without a lot of discussion within our staff, but there have to be changes."

Specifically, what changes?

For now, Riley isn't sure. There will be no knee-jerk reactions. But the OSU coach is willing to offer glimpses of what will be different next season.

For instance, on offense.

"We have to score more points, that's the bottom line," Riley said. "In this era of the Pac-12, you have to score 35 or 40 points to win. We had a hard time doing that this year."

Oregon State's senior-laden defense started the season well but bogged down in the second half, as the Beavers lost six of their last seven games. Riley believes there was a carryover effect from an offense that was sporadic.

"We weren't as stable defensively as I thought we would be," he said. "I thought it would be a year where the defense would carry our team, and it was like that for a time. "Maybe diminishing returns played into that. We never really were very dynamic offensively. When it goes on like that, it puts a bigger burden than is bearable with the defense."

As has been done in recent years, there will be a computer statistical analysis that will evaluate every play from the past season, organized by graduate intern Nick Halberg.

"It will be a total breakdown of everything we ran," Riley said. "We'll see what worked and what didn't work in every single situation."

Sean Mannion departs after a record-setting career, and his passing and leadership skills will be missed. But Mannion's exit will signal a new era of Beaver signal-callers. The leading hopefuls -- redshirt freshman Luke Del Rio and two freshmen who redshirted this fall, Nick Mitchell and Marcus McMaryion -- all have more running ability than this year's incumbent.

Riley won't abandon the pro style offense he has used through his 14 years at the OSU helm.

"The pro style still works," he said. "Alabama is at the top of the heap, and (the Crimson Tide) take a lot of snaps underneath center. They've also morphed into some interesting stuff that translates into what we want to do.

"Making good choices for our offense moving forward is going to be really important. How much we do with the quarterback running the football is something we'll study. We'll have a different skill set at quarterback next year. We'll put a plan together with the new quarterback that will be a big part of what we do."

The Beavers have transitioned into using shotgun at about a 50-50 rate with the direct snap from center. They ran out of the shotgun more than ever before this season, though they still almost always huddled. That could change next season. No-huddle, at least at times? It could happen.

"We're going to study the tempo thing," Riley said. "It wouldn't be hard for us to (no-huddle) with the way we call plays."

Riley wants the offense to play faster. He wants balance, but he also wants the passing game to be the bread-and-butter of the offensive attack.

"We were down this year from the way we've been throwing the ball," he says. "That can't be the case again."

Oregon State's stable of returning receivers is deep and talented, led by sophomore Victor Bolden and redshirt freshman Jordan Villamin and including redshirt freshman Hunter Jarmon, sophomore Rahmel Dockery and freshman Xavier Hawkins. Junior Richard Mullaney, who missed much of the season with a shoulder injury, will be back. And mark down the names of Datrin Guyton (6-5, 180) and Tanner Sanders (6-4, 200), true freshmen who opened eyes on the scout team this fall.

Could that mean going with an empty backfield at times? Yes, it could.

"I'm thinking about the ability we will have to use at least four receivers at times," Riley said.

Tight ends have been a staple of Oregon State's offense through the Riley era, and the Beavers employed two and sometimes three tight ends at the same time often this season. Connor Hamlett and Jacob Wark -- two of the top four players at the position -- will depart. Juniors Caleb Smith and Kellen Clute will be back, but they could be split out at times, too.

"That's very possible," Riley said. "We're recruiting tight ends who are versatile players, and they'll blend into the new stuff we install. We can do a lot of stuff from the shotgun and have fun with it."

The tailback spot is in good hands, with junior Storm Woods, sophomore Chris Brown and redshirt freshman Damien Haskins topping the depth chart. Then there is promising true freshman Ryan Nall, 6-2 and 240 and from Central Catholic High, who will join the group this spring.

"Right now, he is a running back, but Ryan is versatile," Riley said. "Don't be surprised if you see him at slotback or H-back at times, too. He could play linebacker or defensive end, too, but we're going to use him on the offensive side. He wants to be an offensive player, and we want him there, too."

The only senior starters on offense are Mannion and Hamlett. The entire line returns, and center Isaac Seumalo -- who redshirted while rehabbing from a pair of foot surgeries -- will bolster the group.

The defense will be almost totally revamped, with only two starters -- end Jaswa James and cornerback Larry Scott -- coming back.

"The lack of experience is a concern," Riley said, "but I'm excited about the players waiting in the wings."

The biggest need on the defensive side, Riley said, is in the line. End Scott Crichton -- who departed for the NFL after his junior season in 2013 -- was greatly missed. Tackle Jalen Grimble -- who missed most of his junior year with a knee injury -- could be that kind of player. Tackle Kyle Peko, still trying to gain his academic eligibility, is another player capable of being a difference-maker.

"It would be nice to see what we look like with both Jalen and Kyle at tackle," Riley said. "You have to be good up front."

The linebacker rotation will be keyed by Darrell Songy, Rommel Mageo, Caleb Saulo and Kyle Haley, all players with talent and some experience. The safeties will likely be Justin Strong and Cyril Noland-Lewis, youngsters who played in nickel and dime packages this season. Scott will be joined by promising true freshmen Dwayne Williams and Kevin Hayes and redshirt freshman DaShon Hunt at cornerback. The Beavers have also lined up at least a pair of junior-college corners who will figure into the equation immediately.

"We should have more competition at corner with guys who can play than we've had in a long time," Riley said.

The Beavers redshirted 20 freshmen this fall -- every first-year player except Hawkins, who was forced into action due to injuries early and played sparingly. Many of them will figure into the two-deep next season. Connor Kelsey, a freshman, will take over long snapper duties from the departing Michael Morovick.

"We love that group," Riley said. "It feels good going through the names."

Has Oregon State fallen behind its Pac-12 brethren?

"We have right now, for sure," he said. "The difference this year is we didn't win enough of the close games. Win at least one of those and you go to a bowl game and leave with a better feeling.

"I can't guarantee anything, but we've been here before. You have good years and bad years. (In 2011) we were 3-9, and came back and had a 9-3 year. That's our focus now, to get back to where we should be."

Riley's contract runs through 2021. Does he want to coach until then?

"I do," he said. "I have no intention of not coaching. I'm more excited that ever. I feel better than ever. I have a strong belief I'm the right guy for Oregon State. I know what we have to do."

Riley won't talk specifics, but he could make one or more changes to his staff. He said he will address the possibility in the coming weeks.

For now, he is focusing on recruiting. He'll be in California and Hawaii this week, talking with prospects.

"We're disappointed by what happened this year," Riley said. "We're spurred to do better. We have to do a great job of evaluating where we're going and what we're doing. It starts with recruiting, which we have to put our energy into now and finish off this class.

"It continues with how we expand. Every area will be thoroughly looked at to find a better way. We need to do that, and we need to fit our players into that. Everybody has ideas about schemes, but it mostly has to do with what your players can do."

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