Oregon State and their fans have been understandably mostly preoccupied with what the Beavers will look like this season, what with a change of coaching staff, and in turn a change of schemes for both the offense and defense, as well as the schedule, culture, and philosophy, as well as massive overhaul of the defensive lineup.
But at some point, you have to take a look at what Oregon St. will be up against, starting Friday night at 5 PM when Weber State comes to Reser.
Turns out, it will be a lot like looking in the mirror.
Weber State is coming off 3 consecutive 2 win seasons, and is generally picked to finish in the lower stretches of the ultra competitive FCS Big Sky Conference. But its the second season for the Wildcats under Jay HIll, who brings the "Utah System" that is quickly becoming very familiar to Beaver fans.
Hill played at Utah, and after a relatively short pro career in both the XFL and NFL, spent 13 years as an assistant for the Utes, under Ron McBride, Urban Meyer, and Kyle Whittigham. He also played for Whittingham's dad back in his early days.
He also worked for Gary Andersen, and is a personal friend of the new Beaver coach.
Andersen also recruited Hill to Ricks Junior College before they both moved up to Utah.
So as Andersen explained, Hill is implementing the same thing we have been seeing at Utah, BYU, and more recently Utah St., and now (even though we've only glimpsed it) at Oregon St. Also of note, Oregon State defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake's brother Fesi is an assistant coach for Weber State, coaching the receivers.
As you might expect from that coaching tree, look for an emphasis on conditioning and hard nosed defense, hence the lead photo. And while it didn't produce an improvement in the win column for the 'Cats last season, Andersen noted from film study that you could see a marked improvement in the way Weber State played over the course of the season, and the story of this year's pre-season is the expectation that the Wildcats will take some steps forward this season as a result of their approach to their work.
Weber State also hasn't been afraid to take on quality opponents under Hill. Last year, they took on Arizona St., in only their second ever game against an FBS opponent, in their opener, a 45-14 loss, and then North Dakota St., who was on their way to a 4th consecutive FCS National Championship, before delving into the Big Sky.
The Wildcats have another date with the Bizon after visiting the Beavers.
The offensive plan sounds familiar too, to show multiple formations, early and often, including empty backfield looks, and at least try to spread opposing defenses all over the field, and then take what's there. Sounds like Utah State of late, and what we have seen from Oregon St. in their scrimmages.
Last year, Weber State used both juniors Jadrian Clark and Billy Green at quarterback, with Clark replacing Green at midseason, making the final 5 starts of the season, including both of the Wildcats' wins, over North Dakota and Northern Colorado.
Clark was 57 of 109 passing for 902 yards and 7 touchdowns, and also ran 32 times for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns. His 1,081 yards of total offense in half a season was second most on the team.
2 of their top 3 rushers from last season are back for Weber St. Zach Smith ran for a team leading 742 yards on 129 carries, and scored 3 touchdowns, but 5'7", 200 lb. sophomore bowling ball Eric Wilkes has beaten Smith out to get the start in the backfield.
A more telling stat might be that in their first scrimmage this season, 13 different wide receivers recorded a catch.
Junior wide receiver Cam Livingston, who was an All-Big Sky Conference honorable mention pick last year, has 83 catches and a round 1,200 reeiving yards, and 5 touchdowns in the first 2 years of his career, is the leader of the group.
The Beaver back 8, be they in a 3-4-4 or a 3-3-5, are going to be busy.
Andersen also indicated the fly sweep should be on his defene's radar Friday night.
There's no question the athleticism and depth isn't there to the degree that an Eastern Washington or Montana would bring to an FCS-FBS game, and Oregon St. should have the upper hand almost across the board. But as we have seen, the BIg Sky is not to be slept on, and the Wildcats bring a similar system, and as a result have worked against most of what Oregon St. wants to do just by working against themselves.