Gazette-Times sports reporter Kevin Hampton sat down with new Oregon State football coach Gary Andersen to talk about his first month on the job, his staff and the Beavers.
Q: You’ve coached with nearly everyone that joined the staff, including offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin and defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake. How important was it for you to land those two as your coordinators?
A: Very important. When you have an opportunity to hire a staff and No. 1, you get Dave as an offensive coordinator. He brings tremendous experience, he’s an ex-head coach, I’ve been with him for a couple years, we’ve been through a lot of battles together, we’ve competed against each other, so that’s a great start.
But when you look at that room and you sit down and you’ve got (offensive line coach) T.J. Woods and you’ve got (quarterbacks coach) Kevin McGiven and you’ve got Dave Baldwin, who have all been together for a number of years. So then you put Brent (Brennan) and you turn around and get (running backs coach) Telly (Lockette) in there, it’s a great room. The cohesiveness of that room right now is very good because they’ve been together and it all starts with Dave and it’s his offense and he’ll do a great job.
Kalani, on the flip side of that, Kalani and I go back way back when at Southern Utah when he was a GA and I hired him. He’s done nothing but continue to grow and I’ve watched him grow and develop.
We’ve talked long and hard many times about the opportunity to get back together and for him to have the faith and the trust in Oregon State as a whole and myself as a head coach, to have him say that he would come here and be with us, is fantastic.
That room is kind of the same. It’s (defensive backs coach) Derrick Odum and you’ve got (linebackers coach) Ilaisa (Tuiaki) and you’ve got Kalani and you’ve got (defensive line coach) Chad (Kauha’aha’a). Those guys all know each other, so they’re walking into an environment on defense to where they’re speaking the same language if you will, which is great for the kids in the program.
It was humbling as a head coach to go out and try to get those guys back together and have them come back and say yes and have the faith in myself and the university that this was the place they needed to be, because there’s a lot of guys here that, they had great jobs and they were in great places and great universities, but they wanted to be here. That’s unusual in college football. It’s pretty special.
Q: Many Utah fans seemed upset and perplexed that Sitake decided to join you at OSU, and it was reported that he was offered quite a bit of money to stay in Salt Lake City. Were you surprised that he came to Corvallis?
A: It wasn’t a surprise. Kalani and I had talked throughout the years. Not just during the football season and not just during this season, it had gone on for a long period of time that we would love to have a chance to get back together. Not just for myself and him, but for our families.
I like to think that the work environment that I try to create is a great environment for him and his wife and his kids and I think that’s the same way for the whole staff.
But it did not surprise me. Our conversations were very clean and Kalani has high aspirations and has set high goals for himself in this profession. At times there’s an opportunity to come to a great university that you believe in.
I think it helped that he competed against Oregon State the last couple of years, that he was able to recruit against Oregon State the last couple of years, so it made his respect level of the program and the university as a whole was very high, which I think made it much simpler for him. He knows me, but it wasn’t like he was coming to a university that he didn’t at least have a knowledge base of and have great respect for.
Q: What are your impressions of the returning players from what you’ve seen on tape and at workouts?
A: You can sit back and watch the film from a year ago, but it’s hard to look at the defense from a year ago because so many of those kids are gone. You can flip on the tape and most of the kids on defense have graduated.
Our abilities to see these kids in their workouts, it’s invaluable time for us. So you break that down and look at them athletically and I asked the coaches to sit down and have individual meetings with each one of them and set the kids’ goals and the direction that they’re headed in and just get to know them.
Defensively, it’s going to be the strength of a whole, how those young guys or those kids who haven’t played a lot can ball themselves together and have a little chip on their shoulder and say, ‘We’re going to be OK, we’re excited about it.’
Offensively, the wide receivers, there’s some great experience coming back and guys that have made big-time plays.
It’s an offensive line where a lot of guys have kind of filtered through there, but there’s some experience there and experience at the running back position also. And Caleb (Smith) at the tight end spot. You’ve got to look at him and think that he could be an elite performer.
Q: Former coach Mike Riley had a coordinator of special teams in Bruce Read, but it was reported that you are going be coaching special teams. Are you going to handle all the responsibilities?
A: I’m not going to be solely special teams coordinator, but I’m going to be highly involved in the special teams. We’ll break it up throughout the staff, but I will have a definite major part in the special teams.
The one thing we will do is every coach on the staff will be highly involved on special teams.
Q: Considering the fact that you’re still settling in, how are you approaching the recruiting process, particularly with possible de-commits to and from Oregon State?
A: I think that with the kids that are in the program and the kids that have been recruited here prior to us getting here, I think the communication of honesty is so important for those young men, whether a kid decides to decommit or stays with us, whatever it may be, we don’t worry about that because we’re up front and honest and truthful.
Recruiting is based on relationships and how we are and what we’re about and, quite frankly, that takes time. And we haven’t had a chance to get in front of these kids. They don’t know us face to face. A communication through a phone call does not put you in a spot to say that’s a university you want to be at.
We’re in the middle of that process and I want to make sure that a kid is the right fit. I don’t want a young man to walk in here and just because he committed to coach Riley and coach Riley’s staff and then it’s ‘Well, I’m going to come to Oregon State no matter what,’ but then it’s not a fit for him offensively and defensively, that’s doing an injustice to kids.
Q: What’s your view of recruiting junior college players?
A: We’ll definitely recruit JC kids. It’s something I believe in and grew up believing in.
I learned it at University of Utah and when I got to Utah State it was also a big part of the program there and will continue to be a big part at Oregon State.
Maybe because I was one of those guys I believe in it a little bit more, but I think the JCs are a great way to recruit and try to help yourself with some experience playing at a high level of football.
Q: Isaac Seumalo has been out quite some time with his foot injury. Is there an update on his status?
A: Let me just say that he is an unbelievable young man, unbelievable leader. His communication with his teammates is as good as I’ve ever been around and his communication with us has been fantastic. A ton of respect for that young man and his father (former OSU defensive line coach Joe Seumalo) and it’s pretty special how they’ve handled the whole situation.
He is definitely progressing and we expect him to be back and be the anchor of that offensive line.