Oregon State football coach Mike Riley typically enjoys this time of year.
This year is no different.
The recruiting class is in the books and he’s pleased with the group that signed. And now the Beavers are preparing for spring practice.
Maybe best of all, his coaching staff is intact. USC courted offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh, but he turned down the offer.
“That’s a real good thing,” Riley said. “He got an offer and decided to stay with the Beavers. We’ve worked together for a long time. He has done a great, great job here. From my vantage point it was a big, big decision.”
Riley is accustomed to his coaches being pursued. Earlier in the offseason, receivers coach Brent Brennan and running backs coach Chris Brasfield were approached by other teams. Riley wouldn’t mention which ones.
Defensive coordinator Mark Banker had his annual temptation, but that didn’t go far this year.
“I never heard anything from coach Banker himself, but there was a lot of stuff swirling around him,” Riley said. “None of that surprises me. Having the staff together is comforting. They are a good group of guys. They are good for kids and have a great perspective. I’m proud to be associated with them. And the more we stay together, the more we can move forward.”
There will, however, be a shakeup with the graduate assistant coaches. Mitch Meeuwsen, who worked with the safeties, assisting secondary coach Rod Perry, moved to San Diego and is pursuing a career outside of football.
Alan Darlin, who helped Joe Seumalo with the defensive line, is expected to get a full-time job at another college, Riley said. That should be official in a week. Tavita Thompson is returning for his second year helping Cavanaugh with the offensive line.
The NCAA allows teams to have four grad assistants, so Riley hopes to have the three openings filled soon. Rod Perry, Jr., who volunteered his time, is appealing a rule that denies him the opportunity to be a grad assistant.
The rule states that grad assistants must not be more than seven years removed from completing a bachelor’s degree or from retiring from pro football. Perry Jr. is eight years removed from completing his degree.
The Beavers are in the middle of the annual review of the program and preparing for spring practice, which begins April 1.
OSU will practice Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for three weeks. Then go Monday, Wednesday and Friday the final week. The spring game will be 7 p.m. on April 26 and be broadcast by the Pac-12 Networks.
“I think that’s good,” Riley said. “That’s more of the direction we are headed with this network.”
The Beavers have not played a “real” spring game for several years in part because the number of available players, particularly offensive linemen, was down.
Injuries had taken a toll and the Beavers reached a point where they couldn’t field two teams.
“I will have a real game if our personnel fits it,” Riley said. “Maybe this year we will have enough players to do what we want to do. That’s been the big issue. You can’t have some players playing the whole game or playing for both teams. We’ll try the best we can but can’t hurt our team.”
The Beavers will enter the spring wounded. Starting cornerback Rashaad Reynolds (knee) and starting defensive end Scott Crichton (shoulder) both had minor surgery to clean out debris and won’t be involved in spring practice, Riley said.
Freshman offensive lineman Garrett Weinreich isn’t expected to practice this spring while he continues to recover from knee surgery. He was injured during training camp last fall.
Incoming freshman Sean Harlow, an offensive lineman, and quarterback Kyle Kempt are expected to join the Beavers in the spring.
The usual attrition on the roster hasn’t happened yet as Riley is meeting with his players. Roster changes come after the winter term or after spring practice, Riley said.
Walk-on offensive lineman Derek Nielsen, who played a significant backup role last season, may transfer to Sacramento State due to a scholarship opportunity, Riley said. Sacramento State lists Nielsen as having signed with the Hornets.
“For now I’m just meeting with every part of our organization and trying to get a feel for the year and where we are headed and how we can improve,” Riley said. “It’s a time to look back and evaluate our year and go forward and get better.”