Corvallis Gazette-Times columnist Cliff Kirkpatrick raised some interesting ideas in his column this morning about what might develop with the departure of running backs coach Reggie Davis to the NFL.
Robin Ross, a long time friend and associate of head coach Mike Riley, was thrown out of his assistant coaching job by rule, having been a Graduate Assistant Coach, and the allotted time for a him in that capacity has expired. Ross coached the tight ends, and by all accounts did a good job. Check the exploits of Joe Halahuni and Brady Camp.
So there are two openings on the football staff, one full time, and one as a graduate assistant.
Cliff speculates that Ross could well find himself back on the staff, now that there's an opening, leaving the limited duration Graduate Assistant position to fill.
The intent of the Graduate Assistant position is to give recently graduated players an entry into the coaching profession. Notably, GA's don't have the recruiting responsibility of a regular assistant coach. Riley's use of the GA role to add an extra "experienced" coach (Ross was the head coach at Division II Western Washington until that school abruptly closed down their program) is not unheard of, but it was unusual.
Bringing back Ross would be an easy move for Riley, and one Cliff notes would be a "comfortable" one. It would also be in keeping with Riley's "family" atmosphere, and of keeping as much continuity in his assistants, notable in an industry where massive turnover is the norm.
But if Ross does return, what would he do? What should he do? Ross' experience as a position coach has been with tight tends (quickly becoming a bit of a career dead end with the proliferation of the spread offense), and in his first stint at Oregon St., before going to Western Washington, with the linebackers. It seems more sensible for Ross to stay with the tight ends, a position that will remain integral to the Oregon St. offense as long as Riley remains in charge, rather than switching him to be in charge of running backs.
That would mean charging a new Graduate Assistant with the running backs. There's a bit of history here too, given that Riley used another veteran coach as a GA, Gary Beck in 2006 & 2007. And Beck handled the running backs. That coincided with the development of Yvenson Bernard into one of the best at the position in OSU History. So it can work that way.
Finding an experienced coach that can actually coach and afford to not draw a full paycheck isn't all that easy, so its usually special circumstances, as were the cases with Beck, a local product who had had a long career, and Ross, suddenly unemployed for not football reasons.
Cliff has an interesting idea here too, raising the possibility of either Bernard, or Ken Simonton, coming on board in the GA role, and becoming the running backs coach.
With the early departure for the NFL by Jacquizz Rodgers, the single most important task of the off season at Oregon St. instantly switched from overhauling the defense to quickly retooling the rushing game. Davis' departure did nothing to diminish that issue either.
So the question is whether an inexperienced running back coach, such as Bernard or Simonton, is something the Beavers can afford? The presence of couple of highly touted, but inexperienced, recruits at the position in Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew further ramps up the challenge.
There's no doubt that if Bernard or Simonton could impart their ability to a Quizz replacement, be it an existing player like Jovan Stevenson, or one of the true freshmen, then the Beavers will be fine, and Riley a genius.
But can either one of them do that, and do it now? Being in the midst of season ticket renewal season, complete with the time of the year when that HUGE charge is actually hitting the bank accounts of Beaver Believers, "NOW" is the operative word.
Coming off a disappointing no-bowl season, on the job training is risky business for Riley.
At the same time, most of the movement in coaches has already happened, as pro and college programs compete to position themselves going forward. Whether Riley can even find a better scenario is debatable, and certainly difficult.
A decision on the openings will probably be made by the time spring break rolls around at the latest, so that when spring practice starts immediately thereafter, the work on figuring out life after 'Quizz can start with no delay. Possibly even sooner, if Riley finds a combination he is comfortable with. Later would be a major problem.
Attached is this week's poll, where you the fans, the people who are paying for this football thing, can weigh in on what you are comfortable with.
And feel free to expand on your opinion in the comments.