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Stanford Football 2015: Q&A with Building the Dam

Rule of Tree spoke with Building the Dam to get the inside scoop on Oregon State ahead of Friday Night's contest.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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1. It was surprising to see Mike Riley flee from being the most tenured coach within the Pac-12. Even more surprising Gary Anderson, after two years at Wisconsin, left for the Beavers. What are you excited for under this new administration? Will Anderson be the coach to lead the Beavers to their first conference title in 15 years?

Andy: Coach Andersen has installed both an offense that adds the dimension of a mobile quarterback, and a predominantly 3-man front, blitzing defense. Both are much more in alignment with what's being run by most competent high school coaches, and therefore a good match for many more athletes, which should help with recruiting, something that has become an issue recently.

He also has brought in assistants that were an immediate upgrade defensively and on the o-line.

Whether it's enough to win the conference any time soon, or he and especially some of his top assistants will stay long enough, is hard to say, given how deep and tough the Pac-12 has become. And in the short term, the gradual drop in win production that has seen only 1 year that was an improvement over the prior season in the last 8 may have another downturn in store, but the system is one that has a chance to reverse that trend.

RVM: Personally I think the stars a bit aligned to propel the program in a new direction. Riley and Andersen both seemed to get offers to move into a program that better suit that program's current vision. This should make for some exciting Oregon State football over the next few years I think. Don't know if I am ready to jump to the conference championship expectations yet. Things are going to be different, but better? Hard to say, so I will be in the mode of give it a couple years to see what comes of this new Andersen era. For at the least Andersen really needs time to build his program through recruiting his type of players to fit his schemes and establishing his own identity here.

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2. Oregon State's offense has amassed only 529 yards in 3 games of the 2015 season. What has been stunting their offensive game? Seth Collins is a young QB, but there are 8 returning starters on this offense including their top 2 wide receivers.

Andy: Michigan did a lot of that stunting, physically dominating the second half of that game on both sides of the trenches. But beyond that, Collins' inexperience and a totally new system have resulted in inconsistent performances. But the Beavers did get the running game going last week, with Collins running for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns, and more importantly, Storm Barrs-Woods, who missed the first half of the game in Ann Arbor with residual effects from a sore knee, had a breakout game, rushing for 151 yards and a touchdown of his own.

Collins and Oregon State have to get their passing game going better, particularly getting the tight ends more involved, so that Jordan Villamin and Victor Bolden aren't seeing so many double teams.

One of the issues with that is TE Caleb Smith played while sick against Weber State (and probably should have sat), and then missed the San Jose State game.

Coach Andersen and Collins have both acknowledged that the passing game has to get more consistent, and everyone has seen indications that it will. But a true freshman quarterback is still a very inexperienced one, and he is still seeing things he's never seen before, much less developed a plan for.

RVM: Not sure I have a lot offer beyond Andy's assessment above, but the thing that has personally stood out has been the lack of consistency in the passing game in the mid to short range zones of coverage. As Andy has noted the short routes are hugely important to the offense scheme, but to me this part of the game just has not been well established yet. The lack of a TE has hurt in this shorter area of the passing game, but also the team can't seem to get any real consistency out of some pretty gifted receivers (again this all goes to what Andy mentioned above). Also just the lack of ball control and controlling the clock has been a killer at times, and this comes about from poor play-making decisions, turnovers, and penalties. In a huge generalization this offense needs to figure out how to win not just one quarter each game but win a full three to four quarters.

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3. Seth Collins is going to have to follow up a 3,000+ yard season by Sean Mannion. That is tough. How will he do with the pressure of being a young QB in one of the top conferences in the FBS? Will he be able to carve up Stanford's young secondary just like Kessler?

Andy: Collins is still learning how to play the game wisely at this level, but he's also a very different type of passer than Mannion or Kessler, and running a lot different system.

Coach Andersen's offense uses a lot more short passes, and though Collins takes a couple of shots each game, this Oregon State offense is much more one of timing and yards after the catch on short routes than the downfield passing game that Coach Mike Riley employed.

RVM: Not seeing a Kessler type of performance. As Andy has noted it will be much more a deal where Collins will be trying to chip away at the Stanford offense, which I don't know but just seems a little too much playing into the heart of the Cardinal defense. I think to really get Stanford on its heels we need to see a rushing performance where Collins is an important part of. This will be the more dangerous new look.

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4. On the flip side of the ball, Oregon St loses their top six tacklers from a season ago. What will this young defense need to do to slow down Kevin Hogan and this high-powered offense?

Andy: More of what they have been actually doing pretty well. No one has thrown for over 200 yards against Oregon State yet this season, and there's been only 1 completion for over 25 yards, and 1 passing touchdown, and only 3 passes to wide receivers completed for over 20 yards.

And though they wore down against Michigan, finally surrendering 2 fourth quarter touchdown drives, they have been pretty good against the run as well. San Jose State's Tyler Ervin was held to 93 yards, which is nearly 30 yards below what was his season average before last week.

New Defensive Coordinator Kalani Sitake has brought the same tough approach to defense that he had at Utah, and has an active bunch of blitzing linebackers, and a better secondary than most people realize.

The main issue will be whether the d-line, which is missing a couple of their rotation players, can hold up against Stanford's big o-line for 4 quarters.

RVM: The defense very much needs to build on their success and confidence. They also need to be able to play a full game, for Stanford will not be as forgiving as San Jose State was if the defense cannot start strong. Christian McCaffrey looks to be a good test for the front line and linebackers of Oregon State. Not only in being a strong rusher, but also as a player that can move around into different positions. The defense definitely has been the stronger side of the ball for Oregon State, but as the Michigan game demonstrated this team cannot win with a worn down defense. The offense needs to pull its weight too.

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5. With this Friday being both Stanford and Oregon State's 4th game of the season, will the defense be settled down? Is leadership going to be stable or are they going to be still a little bit raw?

Andy: The defense is pretty well settled down, and despite being the least experienced in the conference, has actually been both the best and most consistent part of the team.

Rommel Mangeo has emerged as a double-digit tackler per game machine at linebacker, and Larry Scott, the lone returning starter in the secondary has emerged as leader that the team needs him to be.

RVM: I agree with Andy the defense has settled down and shown strong leadership. I think a key consideration will be much like what happened in the second half of the San Jose State game, and will the defense be able to adjust for what is thrown and run at them? Stanford is going to be a much better at taking advantage of a team that lacks in making adjustments and a defense that overplays. The OSU defense is now playing conference teams that are more athletic and smarter, so even with being I believe settled down overall the Oregon State defense probably will still show some rawness against conference opposition.

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6. Austin Hooper was a great asset against USC last Saturday averaging 20 yards per catch. How will the Beaver's defense plan to slow down Hooper? Will the defense use a MLB and a safety over the top to cover him or something different?

Andy: I expect Hooper will get a lot of contact alternately from LBs Caleb Saulo and Mangeo to slow him down, and then an alternating dose of safeties Cyril Noland-Lewis and Justin Strong, both of whom are also pretty physical. The ability to use multiple LBs and either of the safeties should help keep fresher bodies in play against Hooper.

RVM: Overall Andy has covered this one well! Going to be interesting to see how this plays out, for as noted above the TE is an area we would like to see more from the OSU offense!


7. I remember what a great season Storm Woods had in 2012. What has happened over the years? Will we ever see Woods return to his freshman year glory?

Andy: Storm split time with Terron Ward the last couple of years, and in an offense that frequently went 2:1 pass to rush, with a record book rewriting quarterback in Sean Mannion.

He also has never been able to stay healthy for the entirety of a season, and as noted above, he's already missed a half game this season.

But he seems determined to make the most of his senior season, and last week against San Jose State was easily his best overall performance in a long time. Yes, it was SJ St, but he ran with decisiveness and second effort, and good vision. Whether he can come through with a decent night against Stanford will be the real test.

RVM: Yes, Storm has had issues with injuries over the years. He seems a bit more prone to this as an on-going issues, so he just has not gathered up any head of steam for a season to live up to his full potential. And yes Stanford is going to be a big test for Storm for their defense is so fast and physical. I am not saying he is not a physical runner, but does play a little more of a finesse game. Vision is key for him and going to be huge for the offensive line to give him gaps to read and burst through. Also I would like to see him more involved in the passing game, not totally sure what the new schemes have for the RBs in the pass game, but he is very good with his hands on a ball and some open field ahead of him (as his career rushing and receiving numbers highlight).

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8. Stanford has won the past five meetings between these two teams. In that span Stanford has won by an average margin of 20 points. What do the Beavers need to do to put an end to this half-decade sweep?

Andy: Play with consistency offensively, and sustain some drives, so that the defense doesn't have to stay out there all night with non breaks, like happened in the second half at Michigan, where 4 consecutive 3 and punts by the Oregon State offense gave them no breaks.

If the Beavers can again establish the running game, then Collins will come up with some key completions as well.

Avoiding mistakes on special teams would help as well, and that's been an issue in a variety of ways so far this season.

Oregon State has the athletes to make plays, but a lack of depth of playmakers to go along with inexperience at some positions makes them terribly susceptible to play disrupting, series upsetting, and drive killing miscues.

RVM: Offense needs to play with balance, and needs to control the clock. The Oregon State defense could match up well, especially if Hogan is out, but if they are on the field too much I do worry about Stanford running it down the heart of the defense to control the clock on their side of things. Andersen talked about down and distance improvements before the San Jose State game, and they did okay at times with this, but it will be essential to avoid three-and-outs in this game.

Stanford is going to see a new Oregon State look on offense and this could be a nice time for the Beavs to sneak up on Pac-12 opponents, but at the same time Stanford's defense is exceptionally well coached for this type of match up. The Cardinal's successes over a very deep and athletic UO teams is a testament to this. So it cannot be all about Collins ability to run the ball. Barrs-Woods (or Chris Brown, though seems more like Storm is the go to man back there right now) needs to be an important part of the rushing attack. And as noted above the passing game needs to find a ton more consistency in all the mid and short zones of the field.

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9. It is prediction time. Stanford is looking good coming off of a 41-31 upset of The University of Spoiled Children, but that doesn't mean OSU can't catch them off guard. What is your prediction for this Friday night matchup?

Andy: If I knew if the Stanford team that went to Northwestern (although it looks like the Wildcats might be better than anyone realized), or the one that went to the Coliseum, will be the one that shows up in Corvallis Friday night, it would help.

My suspicion is its the latter, and if that's the case, a score and result that looks like Stanford 34 Oregon State 17 is a definite possibility.

RVM: Hmm, predictions? Football will be played, someone will lose and someone will win. Okay, seriously I am thinking we have a Stanford team on the upward trajectory of their season after the rough opening performance. Even if the Cardinal play without Hogan at QB I think this is a tough match up for this Oregon State football team. There should be a good deal of on campus energy with he OSU student body back in force, and a possibility for a 'let-down' game for the Cardinal, but don't know. Stanford is too well coached for me to really think they will be in 'let-down' mode, and I am worried about the match up of the Stanford defense with the Oregon State offense. If the OSU offense can make things happen and give the defense rest, well the talent is there. I am thinking along the lines of Andy's thought, and realistically thinking even though this maybe not quite a total repeat of the showing at Michigan, it could well expose some of the same weaknesses that came out in that game. Would be a huge win for Oregon State and Coach Andersen though.