Hope is a day in August.
From this vantage, it’s possible to squint and see eight or nine wins on the horizon—even if it makes more “sensible” fans look askance. From this vantage, 2017 feels like a defining year for Gary Andersen at Oregon State University.
It’s his third year as head coach. He’s got a talented group that seems poised to exceed the (modest) expectations of the national press. The depth he’s found at running back is remarkable. A talented group of pass catchers should anchor an improved passing attack and open creases for the ground game. There are playmakers on defense to provide cover while young players gain experience.
There’s a lot to be excited about. But hope is a day in August, and it ends now.
Andersen—conductor of the Straight-Talk Express—says point-blank that the Beavers are not yet game ready. They’re going on the road to face a dangerous Colorado State team, in a brand-new stadium, in a few short days, and they’re not ready.
Don’t panic. Don’t panic.
Okay, maybe panic a little. But, now, breathe, because Andersen isn’t panicking, and because the Beavers have a potential answer for every question.
We’ve got a Freshman All-American locking down one cornerback spot. We’ve got a solid returning starter at one safety spot. And we’ve got a bunch of guys who look like good football players to fill the other roles.
Yes, there’s more “talent” than “experience” on the defensive line. Yes, we’re an injury away from a serious case of heartburn for coach Chad Kauha’aha’a. So—not to be glib about it—thank goodness we play a 3-4 defense!
Then we come to the linebackers. And I’m not going to make a “Bright spot” pun. I’m just not. Stop looking at me like that. It’s not going to happen. Bright Ugwoegbu is a stud, though. That’s not exactly a “hot take”, but let’s say it together: Bright Ugwoegbu is a stud.
On offense, we have a new quarterback in Jake Luton who should add some dynamism to the passing attack. And, fortunately for Luton, perhaps, he doesn’t have to be the savior. Oregon State can lean heavily on its ground game until he finds a rhythm.
The offensive line is chugging along, anchored by a combination of talented returners and given depth by experienced JUCO newcomers. The loss of Sean “Nasty” Harlow can’t be understated, but this group has played together before, and just needs to be solid—not dominant. And they will, as always, be underappreciated by everyone but their teammates and coaches. Sorry, guys. :-/
Meanwhile, the skill-position players are a more exciting group than we’ve had in years.
Ryan Nall, the “China Shop Bull”, is what happens when you record an NFL fullback and then play him back at 1.5x. If he stays on the field all season, he’ll top 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He’d get more than that, except that he’s going to have to share carries with a stable of running backs.
We’ve got last year’s Freshman Sensation Artavis Pierce. We’ve got THIS YEAR’S Freshman-Sensation-to-Be-and-Possible Return Specialist Calvin Tyler. They, too, deserve more words than this. And they’ll get them as the season progresses.
And then there’s the Great Unknown: Thomas Tyner.
He was a sensation, too, as a freshman. Only, it wasn’t this year, or last year. Or the year before. And it wasn’t for the Beavers. Oh, he might’ve been a Beaver. Maybe even should’ve been one.
But he made his choice. And it was the Ducks.
It was a logical choice. A rational choice. And, maybe, a choice that more Beaver fans than would readily admit would’ve made in his shoes.
I don’t think anyone begrudges him that choice. But I think, in our hearts, we in Beaver Nation always felt Tyner should have been one of us. And now, unbelievably, the Football Gods have opened the door into an alternate reality—and offered us a glimpse of what might’ve been.
Tyner’s looked good in Fall Camp. Maybe even scary good, at times, as he shakes off the rust and runs himself back into football shape. But we can’t know what he’ll give us until he’s on the field, and we’re afraid to jinx it with idle speculation.
The Gods of Petty Mischief are too easily tempted.
Seth Collins is another Might’ve Been—and one that we’re lucky to still have, after his near transfer last year. He’s as dynamic a playmaker as we’ve seen since Brandin Cooks or Jacquizz Rodgers. He’s explosive like TNT. He’s got hops like a kangaroo. He’s got speed. He’s got it all, including a busted paw.
Dam it all. All those emotions, all that frustration. Just dam them all up.
It seems like not a year goes by that we don’t have a key player out with injuries to start the season. And it’s so frustrating, because Seth Collins has been working, and waiting, and preparing for this season.
And we are so, SO, ready to enjoy it with him. With all of them. But, instead, we wait with our excitement dammed up, but ready to spill out the instant those floodgates open.
It’s an exciting time to be a Beaver, even if we don’t know what the season will bring. It’s an exciting time to be a Beaver because we don’t know what the season will bring.
Hope is a day in August, and it springs eternal.