If it has been said once, it has been said many, many times: Oregon State Beavers head coach Mike Riley does more with less than anyone. I am the first person to say I am not an expert when it comes to recruiting college football players. Basically, I can only go with what I see on paper or the playing field. To reach any kind of hypotheses, I must balance the two.
In addition, since the last game that was played by the Beavers was the Alamo Bowl loss to the Texas Longhorns, most of my analysis is based on that performance. Unfair? Perhaps. But another cliché I will use: You are only as good as your last game.
We all remember the Longhorns sacking Cody Vaz a whopping Alamo Bowl record ten times. Hence, it would appear the urgency would be on the offensive line. Furthermore, anyone who could compete for starting time immediately would be a golden scenario. Sean Harlow, a 6-5, 275-pound lineman and Fred Launa, 6-3, 270-pound recruit were the two players Riley received on signing day. My puzzlement comes from the lacking number signed for such a pressing need. Out of 24 signed, only two for the offensive line? When Jazquizz Rodgers left for the NFL two years ago, I always figured it was more than just for the riches the professional league has to offer. He probably knew the line was weak and didn’t want to get pounded with such limited protection. Granted, NFL defensive guys hit harder and are bigger. But he saw it coming at OSU. And for the last couple of seasons he would have been right. Given the no pass protection in the Oregon State backfield along with keeping a healthy running back or quarterback for a full season, anyone would wonder the limited pursuit of players in this area.
On the bright side, Oregon State did sign quarterback Kyle Kempt (6-5, 200 pound recruit from Massillon, Ohio). If there is a future after Vaz or Sean Mannion, hopefully this is the guy. In high school he threw for over 6,000 yards and his height makes him the prototype at the position. Not sure of his running capability, but a mobile QB is what the Beavs need more than anything, so he should start taking notes.
In the past, Riley and his staff have done well recruiting in the state of Texas (Jacquizz and brother James Rodgers, Storm Woods). To make up for the loss of departing senior Markus Wheaton, the Beavs signed 6-foot-1, 190-pound receiver Hunter Jarmon out of Waco. Replacing a 1000-yard receiver will be difficult, but the OSU staff appears to be quite excited about this prospect. Along with Jarmon, OSU also signed wide receivers Victor Bolden (from Etiwanda, CA) and Jordan Villamin (Fontana, CA). After Sammy Stroughter left a few years back, I never thought a guy like Wheaton would come along. Here’s hoping one of those guys will be next.
Meanwhile, defensively is where Oregon State shined this past season. Yet, from what happened on signing day, you wouldn’t get that picture. Riley stockpiled this side of the ball. Again, taking the place of a star is no small undertaking. With Jordan Poyer on his way to the big leagues, filling his spot becomes a priority. The OSU staff is particularly fond of junior college signee, Steven Nelson, a 6-0, 185-pound cornerback from College of Sequoias. Dashon Hunt, a 5-10, 175 cornerback from Westlake,CA could also be the playmaker to be in the defensive backfield. The thing with Poyer was not just on the field, but also on the sideline. A natural leader. If either of those guys comes close to such stature, the transition from Poyer to replacement will be not only smooth, but an unexpected bonus.
With five junior college transfers and another nine high school recruits for defense, Riley’s focus was clear. I have written in the past how I believed Riley might have left the Alamo Bowl before everyone else. In other words, while the game was still on. Was he not watching? Vaz was hammered. There could be information I am not aware of, such as players in waiting on the depth chart. Why didn’t they play in the Alamo Bowl? Redshirted is a possibility which I can allow for leniency. Hopefully the plan is more than beefing up the defensive ranks. If some attention is not paid to the O-line during Spring and Summer, the training staff better have plenty of athletic tape ready for the twisted knees or ankles of Vaz, Mannion, Woods and Terron Ward.
Sports historians and prognosticators will tell you throughout the years the game has been riddled with “can’t miss” prospects. And for each one of those is another “you didn’t see coming.” If this process were easy or a relegated science, every team would do well. I can tell you I didn’t see Matt Moore coming and he did great for the Beavs (now in the pros). And Poyer wasn’t heavily recruited but his situation turned out pretty well.
After the sting of the last game wears off (still lingering for me), I will look ahead. I am not sure of any of the new arrivals. My view is our quarterback position requires a fix. So if I had to pick someone who I think will perform, I will go with Kempt. Call it gut. Or hope.