Oregon State's Mike Riley: 4 Reasons Why He's Underrated

Kay Jennings@KayJenningsPDXContributor IIIApril 24, 2012

Oregon State's Mike Riley: 4 Reasons Why He's Underrated

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    No one is writing or talking about Mike Riley and the Oregon State Beavers. Not a word. Nothing. Nada.

    Doesn't that make those of you who cheer for one of the other 11 Pac-12 teams just a little nervous?

    Any team can have a bad year. It doesn't mean they cease to exist. Or that they won't bounce back. There is even some evidence that Mike Riley is not a complete idiot, or perhaps, one of the better coaches in college football.

    Riley was away from the Beavers' spring practices last week to visit his ailing father in Canada. As I watched defensive coordinator Mark Banker lead practices in Riley's absence, I paused and thought about what Riley has done for the program at OSU and what he's up against.

    Here are my thoughts on Mike Riley and the Beavers.

Winningest Coach in OSU History?

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    Mike Riley is only two wins away from becoming the winningest coach in OSU history. He enters this season with 72 victories, just two shy of all-time leader Lon Stiner (1933-1948).

    I would have guessed that Dee Andros (the Great Pumpkin) was on this list, but Andros topped out at only 51 Beavers wins in his ten years at OSU—to my surprise.

    I think Riley ties Stiner's record on Sept. 22, 2012 when the Beavers play UCLA in Los Angeles. Ideally, he would do it on Sept. 8, when the Beavers host Wisconsin in Corvallis. What a party that would be!

    According to the OSU bio of Riley, he has taken the Beavers to six bowl appearances in the last nine years, winning five of those games. 

    Along the way, Riley has been no slouch at developing players for the NFL either.

    Prior to this week's draft, Riley has overseen 24 players drafted. There are currently 18 former Beavers playing in the NFL, including three quarterbacks—Derek Anderson (Carolina), Sean Canfield (New Orleans) and Matt Moore (Miami).

    So, until this past season, it appeared that Mike Riley knew what he was doing. It's such a short road trip from genius to idiot in the college football universe, isn't it?

Tough Competition

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    OK, so it's January,  you're Mike Riley and you are sitting in the living room of the state of Oregon's top high school football player.

    Maybe he's a running back, maybe he's a defensive end—doesn't matter.

    The recruit has just watched Oregon beat Wisconsin in an exciting Rose Bowl. The announcers love the Ducks. Their uniforms are beyond cool. Their RB was a Heisman finalist. The Ducks have six players headed to the NFL.

    To which team do you suppose the best in-state player is leaning?

    Next week, Riley and his assistants are in southern California. The 4-star recruit they're talking to is all excited about USC being off probation. He's always wanted to be a Trojan, and that Lane Kiffin fellow is so nice. Goodbye.

    Face the facts. The team plays in a little burg in Oregon's Willamette Valley, where it rains somewhat frequently and the primary entertainment has something to do with sheep. Not to mention, they compete against red-hot Oregon and perennial contender USC each year. 

    So it only seems fitting that they aren't going to get many of the coveted 4-star recruits —and certainly none of the prized 5-stars.

    And, four exciting new coaches in the Pac-12 this season (well, three plus Mora) isn't going to help OSU recruiting.

    So, what do you do? You make the most with what you have, and Mike Riley has made the most of what he has for years now. He has competed with some of the premier programs in the country with no-star kids.

    In that scenario, you are bound to have the occasional stinky year.

Loyal to a Fault?

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    I was surprised to see that Mike Riley was born in July, and, therefore, he is not a Scorpio.

    We Scorpios are known for our loyalty, sometimes past the point where we should be.

    I honestly don't know if Danny Langsdorf is a good offensive coordinator or not. I do know the Beavs haven't been very effective on offense lately.

    I also think that fans are not the best qualified people to make important personnel decisions. However, when you have a website called angrybeavs.com that started an online petition to remove Langsdorf (and defensive coordinator Mark Banker too), it means something is wrong somewhere.

    This might be a case of Langsdorf moving quickly from genius to idiot, while calling the same plays, but I think you need to consider a change here, Mike.

    I'm sure Langsdorf is a nice man and a good friend, but if it were me, I'd shake up my offense sooner rather than later. What do you have to lose?

    It's not working, Mike.

    Get someone young and hungry to make a name for himself—someone the players can relate to. Keep your own steady hand on the offense, but try something new. Doing the same old thing and expecting different results is, well, you know.

Fast Start

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    The one positive from having a perfectly dreadful season is that virtually everyone underestimates you the next year. I like to call this the "sneak-up-on-them-factor."

    I guarantee that almost no one has circled their date with the Beavers as a must-win game in 2012. I figure that's worth two or three wins right there.

    So that means you only have to win three more to be bowl eligible.

    Get off to a good start by soundly beating Nicholls State on Sept. 1, 2012. And I mean "soundly"—no wimpy squeaker win will do.

    Then, be competitive against Wisconsin. (Pac-12 pride, Mike!) I actually believe the Beavs have a chance in this game. I know, silly me. But they are not without players this year.

    If Mannion, Wheaton, Agnew and Poyer all have the game of their lives, it's not impossible for the Beavs to beat the Badgers. It's not.

    After Wisconsin's visit, OSU has a bye week—two full weeks to prepare for lowly UCLA. I will be very surprised if the Beavs aren't, at worst, 2-1 after the first three games.

    I realize that you are not known for fast starts, Mike, but there is no time like the present to nuke that nasty stat.

    Your team, your coaches, your fans and, God knows, Bob DeCarolis are all tired of losing.

    Give them a big win in Week 1, move past the "underrated" tag and get this party started.