Mike Riley Comments About the Start to Spring Practice

March 28, 2005

The following comments are from Oregon State University head football coach Mike Riley. Riley discussed the outlook for spring football Mon., March 28 as the team prepares for the 15-day practice session, which begins March 30.

Q. Please give us a brief outlook on the upcoming spring practice session.

A. 'We are looking forward to the start of spring practice. Basically we have the month of April to get a lot of things done. We have some new staff members who are getting accustomed to our system and getting comfortable with what we are doing. At the same time we have a lot of personnel decisions that we need to begin to make, but we don't pretend we'll have the personnel issues decided just from spring practice. We will also continue to expand on our system. There is a ton of work to do, but this is a great time for a football program.'

Q. It's been a long time since you have had to pick a number one quarterback. How are you approaching this position this spring?

A. 'It's been kind of smooth over the last six or seven years since the time Jonathan Smith stepped on the field at Husky Stadium. This is an exciting time regarding our quarterback situation, everybody will be paying attention to the position, and it's a great opportunity for the players involved. We've got some guys who have been in the program who are stepping into their opportunities, then we've got a couple of guys who will be looking at for the first time this spring in Matt Moore and Sean Canfield. It's obviously a great opportunity for the players and a big part of the development of this team.'

Q. Is this a position (QB) where it might not be decided this spring?

A. 'I believe that's exactly how it will be this spring. We are going to play a lot of football and the quarterbacks are going to do a lot of learning. Spring practice will be a great time for our quarterbacks to play, and there is no intention for us to come out of the spring ready to ordain a starter. There will be a lot of ground covered this spring and guys will make their marks.'

Q. How does the running back situation look going into the spring?

A. 'We will have a new starter at running back. There are some very capable players who will be stepping into that spot - this will be another interesting part of the team to watch this spring. Yvenson Bernard is a very good overall player and will have an excellent opportunity. Jimtavis Walker transferred here and we recruited him because we thought he would provide the competition to compete for a spot. We have a number of other guys who have a chance, maybe playing the `H' spot. Michael Jones is a guy for instance who is a running back, a fullback, and in our system is the type of player who could play that H back. There are a lot of different roles on a football team and each guy is trying to find their niche. There will be a player who will come out of spring practice and fall camp as our starter, but there will be many guys who will play roles on this team because they are good players.'

Q. Will Jimtavis Walker participate in spring drills?

A. 'That is pending at this time. You'll have a good view of that on Wednesday if this has been decided. We started reviewing the situation again this morning and we'll make that determination within the next few days.'

Q. Do you have a number one area of concern this spring or are there a number of positions that are of concern? And, how does this compare to other springs you have had at Oregon State?

A. 'I don't necessarily have overall concerns; there are some areas that I have already mentioned that will make things interesting. Of course, we also lost both of our cornerbacks. So, there are a lot personnel that will be incorporated into the lineup this year. We also have a couple of offensive linemen who will be new. Almost in every area you can say there will be new faces. We have lost of ton of production this year - you look at losing your all-time leading passer, the all-time leading interceptor, and the all-time leading sacker - those guys are all gone. Somebody has to make those plays now, possibly someone new to program. People step up and take advantage of their opportunities, and that is why spring football is exciting.'

Q. What is the status of Ben Siegert and Sir Henry Anderson?

A. 'Those are two other guys who are pending at this point.'

Q. There has been a lot of talk about revamping the disciplinary process within your program. Please talk about what your role will be in this process and what you would like to see develop?

A. 'We want to continue to educate these kids about making the right choices, and kids don't always make the right choices. I feel great about the message that has been sent to our players, but that doesn't mean somebody is going to make a bad decision in the future. It's an ongoing process, it's like raising your own kids, and it takes some faulty moves sometimes to get everything going the way that you want to. We don't like that and we will discipline those people and take care of it in the best way we possibly can. We will continue to exam better ways to handle situations, whether it be in education or discipline.'

Q. How do you feel about the special teams units?

A. 'I'm very excited about special teams. We started out last year playing a number of young players on those units and as the season played out that was a very positive thing. As we played our best football in the last half of the season, these younger guys played major roles for us. For the most part of last season, we treaded water on special teams. We weren't bad on special teams, but we weren't great either. We were solid for the most part, but at the end year we started to make things happen by blocking a punt and returning punts. We want this to be a part of our identity and Coach Read is very excited about beginning this spring and having his units make an impact.

Q. Is this the best receiving corps in the Pac-10?

A. 'We've got productive players returning. The receiver positions really include the three receivers, plus a tight end and our running backs. We want every one of those positions to be a productive part of our passing game. In order for us to be more balanced we need to bring our line play and running game along, so we have a chance to develop some other aspects of our team. I feel good about the returning players and the depth we have in that area.'

Q. Last year at this time you were looking at playing your first two games on the road and playing a very difficult schedule. How do you feel about the upcoming schedule and the new look to Reser Stadium?

A. 'I'm excited about heading into the new stadium, it will add to everything about our program. That construction is a great sign about everything that has happened at Oregon State over the last few years. As far as the schedule, it will likely end up being one of the top 10 toughest schedules in the nation. Two of our non-league games will be against teams probably rated in the top 25. You take two non-league games like that, plus our conference schedule; we'll have our hands full for sure. It's an exciting time to play Portland State. Portland State has a good solid program and coach Tim Walsh does a heck of a job with that program, so like I said we will have to be ready to go right out of the gate.'

Q. What will coach Mike Cavanaugh bring to the team?

A. 'We have had some transition in our coaching staff, so that is a big part of spring ball getting everybody on the same page. There is some anguish in having to add guys as you go, but at the same time, it's an opportunity for me when somebody leaves to go out and find the best football coach available to help this program. The addition of Robin Ross, Mike, and Danny Langsdorf have been great additions for our coaching staff. I think as we progress through the spring we will become more and more pleased to what we have added in terms of our coaching staff.'

Q. At the end of last year you thought the running game this year would be better than it was in 2004. Why do you feel that way?

A. 'There is a growth factor in that area. It starts up front, even though we lose two very good players, we feel the guys who played there last year in addition to four new guys who redshirted will make us better. Then the fact, even though we lose two running backs, we feel very good about the players we have there. I've always been intrigued about Yvenson Benard - he has always played a nice role for us and he is ready to step forward an make even more of an impact. There are some guys this spring that will make contributions and even this fall we have some guys who will come into picture, especially Nate Wright and Markel Devorce. We have a chance to make some major upgrades in the running game area, and I think that will become a bright spot. To sum that up, the running game is a point of emphasis within our coaching staff, but the coaching staff has formed an identity in what we see happening in that part of our game.'

Q. Many coaches feel spring football is one of the more enjoyable parts of coaching. Do you feel that way?

A. 'Yes I do. You don't have the game on top of you - each day in the fall you worry about what you have done to prepare yourself for the next game. Spring is more of a time to focus on the player. This is a time to work on development of the player and to work on stuff that maybe you have been thinking about for a while. There isn't the outcome of the game hinging on what you are working on. The focus is really on the development of each player without the pressure of the upcoming game. You can really teach football in the spring.'

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