CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) A freshman starting quarterback, less than a dozen returning seniors on scholarship, and Michigan at the Big House in Game 2.
Gary Andersen is looking at a daunting start to his first year as Oregon State’s coach.
It all gets underway on Saturday, when the Beavers open fall practice.
”Everything’s new. In Year One every single day through the first year of a program is a brand new day and a brand new experience,” Andersen said Friday at the Beavers’ football media day at Reser Stadium. ”We’re very excited about the process of learning but we’re also anxious. There’s a lot of emotions that come with this time of year, but the key is to settle in and grind through it.”
Andersen was lured to Oregon State in December after just two seasons at Wisconsin. He replaced longtime coach Mike Riley, who unexpectedly left the Beavers to fill the opening at Nebraska.
The Badgers went 10-3 and to the Big Ten championship game under Andersen last season. He left for Corvallis before the team’s victory over Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
Andersen is tasked with rebuilding the Beavers, who finished last season 5-7 – 2-7 in the Pac-12 – and out of the postseason picture. The team lost prolific quarterback Sean Mannion, who set the all-time conference record for career passing yards with 13,600 and a school record for touchdown passes with 83.
The front-runner to replace Mannion appears to be true freshman Seth Collins, who generated buzz in spring practice and threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 74 yards in the spring game.
Collins verbally committed in January after switching from San Jose State and enrolled in school early. As a senior at Granite Hills High School in San Diego, he passed for 1,013 yards and 12 touchdowns while running for 988 yards and 17 scores.
The media got its first chance to speak to Collins on Friday. He was poised as he spoke about the prospect of becoming a starter in the Pac-12.
”You have to take a step on the field, whether you’re a freshman, sophomore or a junior, you have to take that first step on the field,” Collins said. ”Taking my first step on the field in the first game of the year? It doesn’t bother me. I’m ready to go. It doesn’t scare me.”
Redshirt freshmen Nick Mitchell and Marcus McMaryion will also compete to start at quarterback.
It’s likely Andersen will lean on senior running back Storm Barrs-Woods to help out with carries. The coach is looking for some 20 to 25 carries per game from him.
Barrs-Woods, who this season also recognizes his mother, Faith Barrs, on the back of his jersey, has rushed for 2,250 yards and 24 touchdowns over his career at Oregon State.
He is among the 10 starters who return on offense – including wide receiver Victor Bolden. Oregon State can also count on having five starters back on the offensive line, and Issac Seumalo is finally healthy after missing all of 2014 with a foot injury.
Seumalo started 27 games in his first two seasons at Oregon State, living up to his billing as one of the nation’s top prep linemen, and he could play any position on the line.
Besides the starting quarterback, most of the questions surrounding the Beavers involve the defense. Andersen is known as a defensive coach, but Oregon State returns just two seniors on that side of the ball. Cornerback Larry Scott is the only senior to start all 12 games last season.
The team is switching to a 3-4 base defense under Andersen and new defensive coordinator Kelani Sitake.
The Beavers also were hit with the dismissal of linebacker Darrell Songy. Oregon State’s student newspaper, The Daily Barometer, first reported that Songy did not meet additional behavioral requirements following his suspension in 2014 for violating athletic department policy.
Songy, who had performed well in the spring game and won praise from Andersen, was not listed on the updated roster distributed earlier in the week.
Andersen confirmed Songy had left the program on Friday.
”He had a set of parameters that he had to follow, and he didn’t follow the standards that were set for him,” Andersen said, adding that Songy continued to have the team’s support.
The Beavers were selected to finish last in the Pac-12 North in the league’s annual preseason media poll. Oregon State opens the season at home against Weber State on Sept. 4.
”Preseason polls?” Andersen asked. ”I told the kids the same thing, I told them the last time I looked they don’t give out bowl invitations, they don’t give out championship rings, they don’t give out all-conference certificates or plaques for the preseason.”