Here's what we learned in our Q&A:
UWDP: Quarterback Darrell Garretson struggled passing the football this season, but was an effective runner. Now that he is out for the season, the baton is handed to Marcus McMaryion. McMaryion saw significant time towards the end of last season including the game against Washington. How does the fanbase feel about the sophomore taking over? What are his strengths?
The Coach: I think the fanbase feels just about how any fanbase of a 2-4 team who is about to start a third-string quarterback on the road against the #5 team in the country would feel. It’s safe to say the “here goes nothing” mentality is definitely going into effect this week. No, in all seriousness, I think most fans kind of got swept up in how quickly the news hit that Garretson was done for the season and then incumbent back-up Conor Blount, was ruled out for the week, and all of a sudden, Marcus McMaryion is the guy and “it is what it is” at this point. There’s nothing anyone can do but roll with it now.
As for who McMaryion is, he’s definitely one of those guys who looks the part when he runs out there on the field and has some of the physical tools to be very successful. For whatever reason though, through his brief career at Oregon State, he also seems to be passed over in favor of other, more-polished talents, which is why this week’s outing for him could be so interesting. At the end of the game against Utah, McMaryion got in there and completed five of his nine passes for 76 yards and a score. With his confidence running high, I expected him to come out and try to meticulously pick apart a talented Washington defense with the short-to-intermediate passing game, while also turning to his dual-threat abilities at of the backfield when needed.
UWDP: After averaging over 600 yards and 5 TDs in his first two years, wide receiver Jordan Villamin has been virtually invisible this season. The 6’4” 220lb junior has just eight catches all year and only one for more than 10 yards. What has happened with him? How has Victor Bolden the rest of the receiving corps looked in 2016?
The Coach: Great question. The problems with Jordan Villamin could be added to the long list of issues affecting this year’s team, but I like to view his struggles as more of a microcosm of everything that’s gone wrong with this Beavers squad so far. It just simply doesn’t make sense. In our own preseason “Most Valuable Players” countdown heading into Fall Camp, we listed Villamin as the “#2 Most Valuable Player” (behind Darell Garretson) on the whole roster and I think the expectation around Corvallis was that with a new quarterback in town, Villamin was ready to explode onto the scene. Somehow, that’s not been the case.
If you want to find a true reason for Villain’s weak start to the campaign, it could be probably be attributed to the fact that former quarterback-turned-wide receiver, Seth Collins, has quickly emerged into the team’s best possession target, pushing fellow receiver Victor Bolden Jr. into the unit’s second option/intermediate threat but even that reasoning is picking at straws. There’s no reason that Villamin is not doing more. As for the rest of the guys, they’ve done about as solid of a job as a receiving corp can do, for a passing offense that ranks 121st overall in the country.
UWDP: Tell us about the OSU running game. How has the offensive line performed? What is the status of running back Ryan Nall for Saturday?
The Coach: It’s a bit difficult to explain what Oregon State’s running game will look like on Saturday against Washington, as the Beavers’ most recent injury report has starting running back Ryan Nall listed as “doubtful” and all indications are he won’t be out there on the field this weekend. Surely, that changes things up quite a bit for the Beavers. However, I wouldn’t expect Gary Andersen to stray too far from his ground-attack mentality, especially after the way it worked like a charm in the team’s biggest win of the season over California.
Without Nall in the mix, the two featured backs will likely be Artavis Pierce and Paul Lucas, who are more speed-driven options then Nall, but also are largely unproven and inexperienced. It’s also expected that playmaking receiver Victor Bolden Jr. will get his touches in some different ways out of the backfield, as that’s been one of the consistent trends of this Beavers offense all season long. I think the expectation is that the ground game this week will have to rely on the offensive line to take the pressure off McMaryion trying to win this game with his arm. Like any offensive line, the unit has had it’s fair share of injuries and bumps and bruises but overall, they’ve gotten the job done for the most part in my eyes, all things considered.
UWDP: How would you rate the special teams and the OSU kicking game? Any particularly dangerous return men?
The Coach: You mean Victor Bolden Jr.? When talking about dangerous return men, Bolden Jr. fits the billing as he already has a kick-off returned for a touchdown this season and he’s been that old “one missed block away” from busting about 2-3 more returns open for huge plays. Definitely keep an eye on him in all return scenarios as he can flip the script on a game with ease.
As far as the rest of special teams go, kicker Garrett Owens is a reliable option from anywhere inside of 40 yards, while Nick Porebski is one of the best punters in all of college football. The special teams for the most part has done a solid job (excluding last week against Utah) but that’s likely just one of those indescribable weather scenarios wreaking havoc than any sort of growing trend.
UWDP: Sloppy conditions were somewhat of a factor, but the Beavers still made Utah’s offense look pretty bad. What was the key to that? How has the defense progressed this season? Who are some defensive players to watch for Oregon State?
The Coach: There’s no denying that the conditions for the Utah game probably impacted the stalling of Utah’s offense (at least through the air) more than anything else but if you look a bit deeper into the context of this Beavers’ defense, the group is actually not as bad when it comes to passing defense as most would presume.
Outside Colorado’s Steven Montez, who torched the Beavers for 293 yards and 3 touchdowns, the other five starting quarterbacks that Oregon State has faced this season, have all posted mostly pedestrian numbers. Utah’s Troy Williams went 4/13 for 42 yards in a rain-and-wind soaked game while California’s Davis Webb, arguably the top gunslinger in the conference along with Jake Browning, threw for only 113 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Boise State’s Brett Rypien pieced together a solid 19/36, 215 yards and one touchdown day in a Broncos win but Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner threw for just 130 yards and Idaho State’s Tanner Gueller, although throwing for 227 yards, threw four interceptions and no touchdowns. So it hasn’t really been a pass defense problem too much. Now about that run defense.
The Beavers have obviously struggled mightily in stopping the run as just about every week, the story of that given game has been the inability to contain the multi-threat run options of opposing teams. If you’re looking for a weak spot to pick apart in this game, it’ll likely be through the ground game. While the defense has gotten better week-by-week, the constant struggle to contain opposing teams in the run game just stretches this defense too thin at most times. Multiple running backs have had season high and/or career days against Oregon State this season and that could be the case for Washington's Myles Gaskin this week, unless the Beavers step their game up.
As far as players to watch, in the secondary, Treston Decoud and Devin Chappell are just two significantly awesome talents who are the main reason for most of the success with the impressive pass defense, while in front of them, linebacker Caleb Saulo is one of those “heart of the defense” type of guys, who currently leads the team in tackles. One of my favorite defensive guys to key in on each week is also Bright Ugwoegbu, who is probably the best athlete on the Beavers defense, who lines up at an outside linebacker/edge player spot and is always on the verge of making a huge, game-changing play.
UWDP: It’s year two for Gary Andersen. How are Oregon State fans feeling about the progress so far? What are realistic expectations for the rest of 2016?
The Coach: I’ve gotten this question a few times through some of these “Q&A’s” and to be honest, I think it definitely shows how the interest level of how a rebuilding program like Oregon State deals with some of the rough patches under a veteran coach like Gary Andersen. Obviously, Andersen has proven that he can turn the Beavers program (in time) into a conference contender but it’s not exactly the easiest thing in the world to keep the support of a fan base when you’ve won just one Pac-12 game in the past two seasons. So I’m gonna say at the moment, the fans are still behind Andersen but it’s more because of the internal progress that continues to be seen than any sort of big win or statistical gain. I don’t think the turnaround of this program can be measured in simply “wins and losses” for at least another few seasons.
As for the realistic expectations for the rest of 2016, that’s kind of what Beaver fans will be waiting to see after how this week goes against Washington. The truth of the matter is that with Garretson being done for the season and Ryan Nall now a “week by week” commodity, the focal points of the offense have already been depleted and altered. If Andersen decided to stick with a mix of Blount and McMaryion for the rest of the year and throw in a bunch of younger skill players to get their development going, I don’t think anyone would be complaining. However, knowing that the season wraps up with two home games against Arizona and Oregon, two likely beatable targets, I have a feeling the Beavers don’t simply mail this campaign in and try to start over next season. I expected Oregon State to remain competitive on a weekly basis and do all they can to rise out of the Pac-12 cellar in 2016.
UWDP: What is your prediction for this game?
The Coach: Unfortunately for most Oregon State fans, I think the reality that this weekend’s trip to Washington might get ugly has already set in and I think most fans would be happy with simply putting forth a good effort and getting out of this one with no more injuries. Hopefully, that’s the case. I think the fact that there is a new quarterback in McMaryion and some other pieces can excite this Beavers team, but probably not enough for four quarters. After watching how the Huskies dismantled Oregon, I’m thinking Washington wins by 4-5 touchdowns.