A deflated Oregon State fan base needed a shot of energy, and Gary Andersen wasted no time providing one.
Andersen, who was officially introduced as OSU’s 28th head football coach during Friday’s press conference, didn’t need a splashy performance to captivate the hearts and minds of Beaver believers.
His track record spoke for itself.
A complete rebuild at Utah State and a successful two-year run at Big Ten power Wisconsin headlined a resume that blew away nearly everyone, including Beaver Nation’s captains of pessimism.
With the fans fully on-board after Wednesday’s announcement, Mike Riley’s successor was under minimal pressure at Friday’s introductory presser.
Andersen appeared a tad uneasy at first, but quickly took over a packed room at Valley Football Center.
“I did see an ‘O’ out there in the parking lot, and that irritated me,” he joked to much laughter. The room was his for the rest of the event.
Andersen laid out his vision for the program, highlighted by a commitment to defense and toughness.
But the coach wasn’t ready to get specific with his staff, including who will coordinate the offense and defense.
Gone with Riley to Nebraska are defensive coordinator Mark Banker, offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh, special teams coach Bruce Read and linebackers coach Trent Bray.
Remaining position coaches Joe Seumalo (defensive line), Brent Brennan (wide receivers), Chris Brasfield (running backs) and Rod Perry (secondary) could all stay on Andersen’s staff. Offensive coordinator John Garrett is not expected to be retained.
“I want to get it done as fast as I can, but I also don’t want to rush into the process,” Andersen said of assembling a staff. “When you’re at a university like Oregon State, you have a tremendous chance to hire some of the best in the country, and that’s what I’m going to go do.”
In Andersen’s time at Wisconsin, Dave Aranda ran the defense while Andy Ludwig handled the offense.
Aranda is considered a rising star in the coaching world and would be a major addition to the staff at OSU.
Despite Wisconsin’s 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, the Badgers still ranked fourth in the country in total defense and 13th in scoring defense this season. Aranda’s unit ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense last year.
In his lone season as Utah State’s DC in 2012, the Aggies’ scoring defense was seventh in the country.
Aranda is known for bringing pressure with a wide array of blitz packages. He primarily ran a 4-3 at Utah State but used a 3-4 base at Wisconsin.
If he doesn’t land a head coaching gig of his own, Aranda would appear to be an upgrade over the departed Banker.
With eight senior starters, the Beavers ranked 78th in total defense and 97th in scoring defense in 2014. They were 101st and 91st, respectively, in 2013.
On the offensive side, Ludwig should be a familiar name to Beavers fans.
He was Mike Bellotti’s OC at Oregon for three seasons and bolted after the Ducks’ 50-21 loss in the 2004 Civil War. Ludwig then went to Utah (2005-08), California (2009-10), and San Diego State (2011-12) before joining Andersen in Madison.
It’s still unclear what type of offense Andersen will bring to Corvallis, but it seems unlikely Ludwig will be in the picture.
Andersen used the spread at Utah State with star quarterback Chuckie Keeton and ran a power attack at Wisconsin with 2014 Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon.
At OSU, it might be a blend of the two.
“Offensively, we want to open it up,” Andersen said. “We want to be able to put ourselves in position with the quarterback where the quarterback has to be accounted for in three ways: With his arm. With his legs. And with his mind. And it’s important today in college football that we are able to do that.”
After four years of the statuesque Sean Mannion, a mobile quarterback would be appealing to most Beavers fans.
Junior-to-be Brent VanderVeen and sophomores Nick Mitchell, Luke Del Rio and Marcus McMaryion can all use their legs.
But Andersen might be interested in a pair of potential “free agent” quarterbacks who could transfer to OSU without penalty, assuming they complete their undergraduate work on time.
Utah State’s Keeton and Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams are both established lower-level quarterbacks who will be fifth-year seniors next fall.
Keeton, who was recruited to Logan by Andersen, started as a true freshman in 2011. He led the Aggies to an 11-2 record as a sophomore and threw for 3,373 yards and 27 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder missed most of the last two seasons with a pair of left knee injuries, but Keeton will almost certainly be granted a medical hardship waiver by the NCAA.
Andersen said Keeton texted him a congratulatory message after the news broke on Wednesday, and that he’s had “a fantastic relationship with the young man for a number of years.”
If he’s interested in teaming-up with his old coach, Keeton would be a fascinating one-and-done candidate in Corvallis.
So would Adams, who owns one of the greatest single-game performances in Reser Stadium history.
In the 2013 opener, Adams threw for 411 yards, rushed for 107 and accounted for six touchdowns as the Eagles stunned OSU 49-46. Adams also threw for 475 yards and seven touchdowns in a 59-52 loss at Washington this year.
There’s no doubt Adams can torch Pac-12 defenses, but would he consider leaving Cheney for Corvallis?
Andersen is still shopping for an OC, and current EWU head coach Beau Baldwin looks like a viable candidate.
Baldwin, who has a 66-24 record and one FCS title with the Eagles, would be looking at a substantial raise at OSU.
According to multiple reports, Baldwin’s base salary at EWU is $166,420. Garrett made $320,004 as the Beavers’ OC in 2014.
Baldwin certainly has the appearance of a great addition to Andersen’s staff.
If he could convince Adams — or Keeton — to join him in Corvallis, OSU’s offense may be a little more exciting in 2015.
And excitement is exactly what the fatigued OSU fan base has been clamoring for.
Bob Lundeberg is a sports reporter for the Albany Democrat-Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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