Oregon St. started spring preparations under new head coach Gary Andersen and except for WR coach Bret Brennan and some of the graduate assistants and student staffers, a whole new coaching staff this morning.
Bright and early this morning, at 7 AM, earlier than any Oregon St. practice has ever been held.
"They kind of woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5:30 or whenever they got up, and they came out here and did a nice job," Andersen said.
With practices being "restricted access" (more on that below), the first things we learned for fact were the look of the fairly sharp practice uniforms the Beavers will work in.
The defense sported traditional black jerseys, but brightly decorated ones, above, while the offense donned white jerseys, below, except for the quarterbacks, who, as seen in the lead, will wear highly visible orange jerseys.
And for the first time, the Beavers have "adorned" practice helmets, sporting the "Beavers" script from the re-branding. It was made clear, possibly disappointingly, that these will not be used in games. Too bad, they look pretty sharp.
It's been widely discussed, including by Coach Andersen himself, that Oregon St. will up the tempo this season. Based on today's start, it appears that tempo more than spread principals might even be the calling card of the team.While up-tempo has been Andersen's calling card and preferred style, it remained to be seen whether it would be a gradual speed up, given existing personnel, or if the Beavers would put the pedal to the medal from the get go, and see if they could hold it there.
After 1 non-pad acclimation practice is too soon to draw many conclusions about anything, but we can tell that in that question of tempo, the answer is the latter.
"From start to finish we want it to be a little bit of organized chaos, I guess," Andersen explained. "If you just came in and watched practice, you'd say 'holy cow, what's going on?' We try to challenge ourselves as coaches and players to play with a lot of pace and a lot of speed."
While sorting out the defensive depth chart is probably the task with the most questions to be answered, and likely to result in several players being shifted to new positions, according to Andersen, its the quarterback position that has everyone's interest, and a record 7 players about equally splitting snaps.
Andersen said he wants to narrow that field down to 2 of 3 as soon as possible, which probably means there might be a position change to come, but a transfer or two isn't out of question either.
The early tempo and accelerated time table, coupled with essentially no meaningful experience for any of the group, the "finalsts" are likely to be the ones that are the quickest learners, assimilating not only the new play book, but the preferred style of Andersen and quarterback's coach Kevin McGiven the quickest, and demonstrating that mastery the soonest. That does not necessarily mean the candidate with the best capability long-term.
That will be the story of the spring for everyone in the overhauled system though.
"Different pace, different formations, different sets, different play calling, different verbiage. We're just getting used to all of that," running back Storm Woods said after practice. "We've been going over it all in the offseason before spring ball. Sometimes it can be difficult. But we're all going to get in the film room and we're gonna learn. Our No. 1 objective is to give it our all and grow. We're gonna get the kinks out, this was just the first day, but we're rdefinitely going to grow from today."
Another limited contact limited access session will be held Thursday morning, with the first session fully open Saturday at 11:30 AM in Reser Stadium, when we will get our first best look at the Beavers to be. It would be then before a lot would become apparent anyway, given the limited contact requirements of the initial sessions.
The closed practices are, as expected, not totally closed. Access is limited to the final portion of practice, except for select luminaries, such as Steve Preece, the member of the Giant Killer era that has long been involved in select coverage of the Beavers, but is best known for his long stint as softball pitcher during former coach Mike Riley's post game
press statements batting practice sessions.
During the latter portion of practice, select media that won't ask hard questions are invited in for photo ops and sound bytes.
Compare and contrast with what we see in Saturday sessions will begin to give some perspective on how the process is progressing.
From what we can glean from afar, the early emphasis is on teaching a tremendous amount of new material, and so far, there's an invested audience.