- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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CORVALLIS, Ore. -- This spring we’re catching up with several coordinators around the conference. We recently spoke with new Oregon State offensive coordinator John Garrett about his move back to college football, coaching with Mike Riley and what the Beavers offense will look like in 2014.
It’s your first college spring ball since 2006, what’s it like being back?
John Garrett: Football is football. It’s all the same plays that we ran in Virginia, Dallas, Tampa, it’s the same plays, just different athletes. You teach it the same way, encourage them the same way, have the same demanding style.
But it’s always neat to be around a college campus. You’re surrounded by a lot of people in academia that are motivated by achievement, the kids are going to school, there are people in and out of the office. You really get to see and do the campus life rather than being in the NFL, when you’re just at the facility and it’s football all the time.
Football is football, but how much different are you as a coach -- running your practice, approaching the game plan, etc. -- at the college level than you were in the NFL?
JG: There’s a talent level difference. In college, not every guy is going to go on to pro football, so there are certain things they are capable of doing and certain things that they’re not. You just have to make sure that the things you’re asking [the college players] to do -- the scheme, the offense, the system -- that they’re capable of doing. That’s the biggest difference, just to make sure that we’re not asking the impossible, or that you would if a Pro Bowl NFL player could do. You get those [NFL] starters in there and quarterbacks can throw every ball, receivers can run every route, tight ends can block, all that stuff.
You played for Oregon coach Mike Riley in 1991 for the San Antonio Riders (World League of American Football), now you’re coaching with Riley. What’s that transition like?
JG: It was a joy to play for him. He just treats everyone with respect and he has immense football knowledge. He has been a head coach. He has coached on defense. He has coached on offense. I just learn from him every day. ... That has just continued now that I’m coaching with him. When I say, ‘It’s great to work for you,’ he says, ‘No, no, it’s great to work with me.’ That’s the way he treats people. In his mind, the relationship is always first.
Now, to this team ... having quarterback Sean Mannion back this season, how much does that ease your transition since he’s so experienced?
JG: He’s a fantastic player, and the quarterback position is the most important position in all of sports. If you don’t have one, you’re not going to win many games. And we have one and he did a remarkable job last year just with his play on the field and his leadership. He has continued to do that. He’s a remarkable worker. He’s really smart. We can give him anything scheme-wise, and he can handle and understand it. He picks it up quickly. He’s really hard on himself. Despite throwing for 4,600 yards and 37 touchdowns, we’ve discovered that he can get better and he knows that. And he’s always striving to improve. All the great ones have that trait.
His yards will only be as good as his receiving corps, though. How do you go about replacing a guy like Biletnikoff winner Brandin Cooks?
JG: I have this on my board in my office: 128/1,700+. That was his production -- 128 catches, 1,700-plus yards. It has to come from somewhere else. The last time I checked, [NFL Hall of Famer) Paul Warfield isn’t just going to walk on campus and we’ll find a receiver. So, it has to come from these young receivers. We have talent at the position, and they just have to continue to get better and someone is going to emerge. It has to come from the tight ends. We have a good veteran group there. We can put four or five different guys in the game. It has to come from the running backs. We have two, three, hopefully four guys we can put in the game there. It’s going to be a collective effort to recapture and replace that production that one guy did in Brandin because he was such a fine player.
Once you knew you were coming to Corvallis, how much game film vs. practice film did you watch of the Beavers?
JG: I had to get up to speed on the system because we weren’t going to change anything with a senior quarterback, so I had to learn the terminology and the way we call things. I started watching game tape because not only do you have to learn the system, you always have to learn the players and personnel. Again, the personnel side of it, you have to know what they can do so you tweak the system to their strengths rather than asking them something they can’t do just because it was your favorite play. We’re going to run an offense with Coach Riley’s guidance and everyone all in that this is what we can do, everyone is going to have a role and we’re going to put them in position to succeed.