For the fifth year running the Oregon State football team assembled a quality offensive line thanks to position coach Mike Cavanaugh.

During that time injuries or graduation couldn't slow the offense. There was a 1,000-yard rusher each season and the passing game was in the upper half of the Pacific-10 Conference.

That successful run had the potential to end this season since the Beavers started two underclassmen on the left side, including true freshmen left tackle Michael Philipp.

Somehow, someway Cavanaugh molded another cohesive unit, and the results as better than usual.

Running back Jacquizz Rodgers has already rushed for 1,148 yards and quarterback Sean Canfield leads the Pac-10 in passing with 256.6 yards a game.

"We struggled early in the season with the sacks, but we've done a better job of protecting and getting rid of the ball quicker," offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. "Coach Cav has done a great job of teaching the young guys and getting them ready to play. That's important to us."

So what's his secret?

From the outside he's gruff, loud and intense. He's the stereotypical screaming coach during practice.

Cavanaugh drops a few expletives for shock value, gets in someone's face and demands perfection. He'll stop a play in practice and make everyone on the offense redo it if he sees any flaw in his linemen.

"It's just training and repetition, and the commitment they've had," Cavanaugh said of his players. "They put up with a hell of a lot of crap, and they can kill me at any time. Thank God they haven't."

When the linemen don't meet Cavanaugh's standards he doesn't hesitate to force them into group pushup sessions or the dreaded bear crawl workout.

For those who haven't done a bear crawl, you crawl on your hands and feet for a set distance, usually 10-20 yards. Doing 10 in the middle of an already taxing practice can be excruciating, even for the most conditioned athlete.

"Sometimes in the middle of bear crawls you think you don't want to do this," said right tackle Mike Remmers, who vomited in the middle of one of Cavanaugh's special workouts. "Some people might think negative about it, but you just have to think positive and get better."

Cavanaugh's style stands out more on the Beavers with laidback coach Mike Riley, who rarely screams even during games.

Langsdorf and the other offensive coaches, Jay Locey, Reggie Davis and Robin Ross are more similar to Riley in demeanor.

"He has that unique quality that very few guys can get away with," Riley said. "He's able to be tough, and they come back for more."

Cavanaugh does walk a fine line with the players. Those who embrace him excel. Former players Andy Levitre and Roy Schuening were NFL draft picks. Levitre and Jeremy Perry were All-Americans.

They, and many others, set a high standard for the Beavers. Cavanaugh's challenge each year is to maintain that level.

"I coach them hard in the week," Cavanaugh said. "The work has to be done all week long. And I challenge them. But I try not to yell at them all the time because that will turn them off of you."

As he established his line program within the overall program, his edge softened since veterans show younger players the way to stay on Cavanaugh's good side.

Remmers remembered telling the underclassmen to stay in line during training camp because Cavanaugh was being too nice. It was the lull before the storm.

"He's not as tough as he thinks he is," Langsdorf said. "He's a big teddy bear."

Cavanaugh tells his linemen all the time that they might not like what's going on right now, but they'll appreciate it later in life. He's building a mental toughness in them.

An analogy would be arguing with what your father tells you, but later in life you realize the old man had a clue after all.

"He expects us to be perfect on every play," Remmers said. "He yells at us and gets mad at us all the time, but it makes it easier for us in games. You are supposed to have more pressure in games than in practice, but it feels the opposite for me."

However, there's more to Cavanaugh than that when looking in on the inside.

"The most important thing is the guy is very, very good football coach," Riley said. "He's a good teacher of how to play. He cares about the kids. He's a perfect fit for us that way."

Cavanaugh is just as relentless going over video on the opposing teams and his own players as he is with execution in practice. Then he brings his findings in detail to players in meetings.

Breakdowns of plays are done in part for each individual and as a whole so there's understanding for the group in what the entire offense wants to accomplish.

Cavanaugh plays a big part in the offensive planning. He and Langsdorf go over the run blocking schemes each Sunday and Monday before games.

Langsdorf depends on him to come up with ideas to block the plays he wants to run that week.

"He's smart," Langsdorf said. "He has great ideas. We fit things together well, running and passing it."

So as you watch the Beavers move up and down the field with big plays by the Rodgers brothers and Canfield, remember the reason for it was the work done by Cavanaugh for the linemen.

The team being bowl eligible for a school-record fourth straight year wouldn't have happened without them.

"He teaches great technique and knows his stuff," Remmers said. "You can tell he studies whoever we are playing. He gives us the tools to win the game."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.