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Offense Has a Head Start Heading into 2009-2010

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Ever sat in a stuffy high school gymnasium in November and watched the JV scrimmage the varsity? That's sort of what Oregon State's Sunday win over Southern Oregon looked like. Give Southern Oregon and their coach Brian McDermott credit though-- they battled-- but they just couldn't overcome the depth and athleticism of Coach Robinson's Beavers. 

Which is the way it was supposed to be. 

The Beavers struggled last year in their exhibition opener, defeating Saint Martins of the Division II Great Northern Athletic Conference by just four points. It was the team's first win under Coach Robinson, and ended a 20+ game losing streak for most of the players. 

"We love the system," Omari Johnson said after last year's exhibition opener. "Going out there and trying to run the system wasn't that hard of a job. We tried our best to do everything, it didn't come out how we wanted at times, but we can work on it and its going to be good by the time the season ends."

He wasn't lying-- the offense did look good by the end of the season. It produced 18 wins in the 2008-2009 campaign, and has the media calling for this year's team to finish in the top half of the Pac-10. 

A year removed from that game, the Beavers came out against Southern Oregon and ran the offense with ease. They went back door, they converted from outside, they looked good in transition, and played some good defense. 

Again, Southern Oregon is no Cal, Washington, or UCLA. But it's interesting to think about what having those nine returning letter-winners will do to a team that runs a moderately complex offensive system that is foreign to most players. In other words, Coach Robinson isn't starting from scratch this year. 

In fact, he's added five new players to the mix, giving the Beavers added depth and athleticism.  Jared Cunningham, Joe Burton, and Angus Brandt all made contributions to Sunday's game off the bench. Rhys Murphy will be sidelined for about a month with a fractured foot, and Roberto Nelson is struggling to be cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse. 

The guys who have played under Coach Robinson for a year noticed the difference the year has made.

"Last year, we barely won our first exhibition game," Senior guard Seth Tarver said. "But everything was new. Now we can just react and act on plays. It's nice to see we carried over from last year."

Not only is the offense familiar, but there are new bodies on the bench. It remains to be seen whether any of the incoming players will challenge the returning starters for their major roles on the team, but they certainty add a new level of depth to the roster. 

"Down the stretch, when we're playing games back to back or every other day we are going to be tired," Tarver said. "So, depth will definitely be an issue. It's nice to see that the new guys can contribute physically. They're ready to play at the college level."

If last year's four point exhibition win was indicative of Oregon State's 18-18 season, I wonder what this year's 94-53 start means. It's only an exhibition game, against an NAIA opponent, but I like what this season has in store.

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com