OSU's new coordinators share their ideas
CORVALLIS — The coordinators on Oregon State's football coaching staff are still strangers to their new home turf, having been on the road recruiting most of the month of January.
But that is about to change.
Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren and defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar have located housing and are beginning to get settled in as both citizens of Corvallis and members of Jonathan Smith's first coaching staff at OSU.
Lindgren and Tibesar sat down with the Portland Tribune to discuss Beaver football and what to expect from the offensive and defensive sides next season.
What we learned:
• Lindgren, 37, has been an O-coordinator or co-coordinator for nine years — from 2009-11 at Northern Arizona in 2012 at San Jose State and from 2013-17 at Colorado — and has called plays over that duration.
The Walla Walla, Washington, native and former Idaho quarterback will call plays, coach quarterbacks and oversee Smith's offense. His recruiting area will be three familiar areas — Eastern Washington, Idaho and Colorado.
"And quarterbacks," Lindgren says. "That's going to be the main emphasis — knowing where the quarterbacks are."
When time has allowed, Lindgren and Smith have met to "bridge our offenses," Lindgren says. "I have some things I have strong beliefs in; he has some things. We're in the elementary phases of figuring things out. It's about developing an identity we can agree on and to set a foundation for who we want to be as an offense. The most time-consuming part is setting that. Once we set it, we'll be able to run with it."
February will be the month when Lindgren sits down and becomes better acquainted with the other members of the offensive coaching staff — Jim Michalczik with the linemen, Kefense Hynson with the wide receivers, Michael Pitre with the running backs and Mike Riley with the tight ends. That's when they'll explore more fully the Beavers' offensive philosophy moving forward.
"I've gotten to know them quite a bit through recruiting, but we haven't dived into the system stuff yet," Lindgren says. "Once Coach Smith and I set the foundation, we'll get into it with everyone."
Lindgren prefers a multiple offense that begins with a ground game and a physical presence.
"I want to run the ball," he says. "It's important to do that. It opens up everything else.
"We're going to throw the ball a lot, too, but it's important to establish a culture of being physical at the line of scrimmage. We have to have a mentality among our guys that we're going to be physical, and everything will play off of that."
Passing ability is what he looks for first in a quarterback.
"We want a guy who is an accurate thrower and efficient with the football," Lindgren says. "If he can move and do some things with his feet, it makes my life as a play-caller a lot easier. It's an extra thing the defense has to account for."
Lindgren has met with some of the players, but expects to do that more fully in the two months before the start of spring ball.
"I've been trying to get into the weight room to watch them when they're working out, to get a feel for how guys move and what their skill sets are," he says. "That's going to be a big part of it. Spring football is going to be huge. We're going to be trying different things and moving guys to positions to see how they fit with what we want to do. Spring will be a huge tell-tale sign of where we are and where want to be."
Lindgren will have four players at the quarterback position this spring — senior Jake Luton, junior Conor Blount, sophomore transfer Jack Colletto and redshirt freshman Aidan Willard.
Luton started the first four games last season before suffering a season-ending spine injury at Washington State. The 6-7, 225-pound Luton has been cleared for a majority of conditioning and throwing activities this winter and expects to be back at full strength for the start of spring ball.
"The training staff says he is coming along very well," Lindgren says. "Jake is excited. He's optimistic. He's been working hard to get himself back."
Lindgren says he is not ready to designate Luton as the starter heading into the spring.
"But I feel like any time you have experience playing the Pac-12, that holds a lot of weight," Lindgren says.
Colletto, a 6-3, 225-pound transfer from Arizona Western by way of Camas (Washington) High, is an intriguing prospect who will get a good look this spring. So, too, will Blount, who saw significant duty as a true freshman in 2016.
"Conor played against us when I was at Colorado," Lindgren says. "I'm familiar with him. He does some good things and has some Pac-12 experience. He's going to be right in the mix."
Lindgren says Willard was on Colorado's recruiting board while a prep senior in Napa, California.
"We had him in a summer camp," Lindgren says. "I like what he can do. We'll work with him in the spring and see where he's at."
Ryan Nall and Thomas Tyner will depart at running back, but the Beavers will return junior Artavis Pierce, who saw significant duty the past two seasons.
"I remember in our game against Oregon State last year, our coaches were saying, 'Gosh, who's that guy?'" Lindgren says. "I was impressed with him."
Behind Pierce are sophomores Calvin Tyler and redshirt freshman B.J. Baylor.
"I'm fired up to get to spring and see what those guys can do," Lindgren says.
Oregon State returns three receivers who saw extensive duty last season — sophomore Isaiah Hodgins, senior Timmy Hernandez and junior Trevon Bradford.
"There are some guys who have played, and some JC kids who came in and didn't have spring football," Lindgren says. "That's hard when you don't have the spring to learn the offense and everybody else is rolling. We have some talent at that position."
The top two tight ends, juniors Noah Togiai and Tuli Wily-Matagi, are back.
The Beavers return four starters from the O-line — senior center Sumner Houston, junior tackle Blake Brandel and senior guards Gus Lavaka and Trent Moore. Also back are several O-linemen who redshirted, including JC transfers Clay Cordasco, Keli'i Montibon and Justin Sattelmaier.
"There are a lot of guys with experience and a lot of guys who have been in the program," Lindgren says. "The junior class is stacked with numbers. We have a head start there."
Lindgren says he is excited to work with coaches with plenty of experience on the offensive side, including Smith and Riley, the latter the veteran of 14 seasons as head coach at OSU.
"There's going to be no shortage of ideas given the experience and the offensive minds we have on our staff," Lindgren says. "We're going to have plenty of ideas to choose from."
• Tibesar, 45, comes to Oregon State after spending the past three years as linebackers coach and defensive run game coordinator at Wisconsin.
In his three seasons with Wisconsin, the Badgers ranked in the top seven in the country for total defense, including second behind Alabama this past season. Wisconsin also was third in scoring defense and rushing defense.
The former All-America linebacker at North Dakota also has coaching experience at Kansas State (2001-05), Purdue (2009-11) the Chicago Bears (2013) and Northwestern (2014). He coached in the Canadian Football League for three seasons and helped the Montreal Alouettes to back-to-back Grey Cup championships. He has six years experience as a D-coordinator — two years at North Dakota, two years at Kansas State, one year at Purdue and one year with the Alouettes.
Tibesar was late joining the OSU staff, staying behind to coach with the Badgers in their 34-24 Orange Bowl victory over Miami. There he worked under head coach Paul Chryst, a former offensive coordinator under Riley at OSU. In three seasons, the Badgers went 34-7, including 13-1 last season. They were 3-0 in bowl games.
"We had a great three years at Wisconsin," Tibesar says. "It was a lot of fun to see that program continue to grow and achieve the heights we did. I had a great experience with Paul.
"We put together a run of good defenses. Part of it was complementary football from offense and defense. It helped that our offense led the country multiple years in time of possession. But we had some really good (defensive) players who gave a tremendous amount of effort and worked hard. That's what we want to instill here at Oregon State."
Tibesar had no prior relationship with Smith before making the making the move to OSU. Tibesar leaned on the opinions of Chryst and Wisconsin D-line coach Inoke Breckerfield, a former All-America D-lineman for the Beavers. Chryst coached Smith, and Breckterfield played with the new OSU head coach during their time in Corvallis.
"I was impressed with how they both talked about this place," Tibesar says. "Then I got the opportunity to meet with Coach Smith one-on-one over two days. He told me about his vision for how this place can be, and how he can do it the right way. I was excited to come here and be part of that."
Through two decades of coaching, Tibesar learned the game from many outstanding coaches, including Chryst and Marc Trestman, now head coach of the CFL Toronto Argonauts. Tibesar spent four years with Trestman — three years with Montreal and one season with the Chicago Bears.
"And having the opportunity to work with guys like Dave Aranda (now defensive coordinator at LSU) and Justin Wilcox (head coach at California) was a great benefit to me," Tibesar says.
Tibesar's recruiting regions will be San Diego and Orange County, but his responsibilities will extend beyond that, he says.
"We'll recruit by area, but once we identify a prospect, we'll do it as a whole staff," he says. "It's similar to how we handled it at Wisconsin. You mine your area for prospects, and then as you get into the (scholarship) offering and recruiting portion, it's a team effort."
Tibesar will be working with a defensive staff that includes Trent Bray (linebackers), Legi Suiaunoa (line) and Greg Burns (secondary).
"I knew Trent by reputation, having coached against Nebraska (when Bray coached there) the last couple of years," Tibesar says. "Legi and I hadn't met, but we've spent a lot of time together on the road recruiting the past month. This is the third time Greg and I have worked together — we were on the same staffs at Kansas State and Purdue. So we're very familiar with each other."
Tibesar will employ the 3-4 defense the Badgers used the past three seasons.
"We'll identify our playmakers and get them on the field," he says. "We like the 3-4 in the sense that it's multiple and you can do a lot of things with it. We'll have nickel packages and a lot of different looks."
Tibesar has growing familiarity with the Beavers' roster on the defensive side, but says he will keep an open mind during spring ball.
"We want to give all the guys a fresh start," he says. "We'll have that opportunity in spring practice to see what they can do."
Tibesar says his defensive philosophy emphasizes four key ingredients — pursuit, block destruction, tackling and takeaways.
"We'll do it with technique and fundamentals, which I believe leads to good football," he says.
"We have to be great at running to the football. It takes no talent to hustle. We have to get our guys to get more hats to the ball.
"We have to be great at beating blocks and destroying blockers. We'll work really hard at tools for how to beat blocks. Then we can be in position to make plays.
"All defensive players have to be great at tackling. We'll train our guys in all the different styles of tackles.
"In today's football, with rules favoring the offense, takeaways are the equalizer. We have to teach our guys how to create turnovers.
"If we can be good at those four principles, we have a chance to be good defensively no matter what scheme we're playing. We're going to hang our hat on fundamentals."