Pac-12: Brent Brennan

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Five Oregon State assistant coaches have been linked to Mike Riley’s new coaching staff at Nebraska, according to media reports.

Riley, at his introduction Friday, said he hoped to bring a portion of his staff from Oregon State, where he had coached since 2003.

[+] EnlargeHawaii Bowl
Marco Garcia/USA TODAY SportsDefensive coordinator Mike Banker (middle) is among the former Oregon State assistants reportedly following Mike Riley (right) to Nebraska.
Linebackers coach Mike Bray on Saturday helped deliver to Riley his first recruit at Nebraska as linebacker Tyrin Ferguson of New Orleans switched his pledge from the Oregon State to the Huskers. Bray also contacted safety prospect Kahlil Haughton of Waco, Texas, about Nebraska, according to Huskers Illustrated.

The 32-year-old Bray has coached the past two seasons in a full-time position at Oregon State. He recruited the Dallas metroplex and portions of southern California. Regarded as a top recruiter, Bray previously was linebackers coach at Arizona State.

Others reportedly headed to Lincoln from Corvallis include defensive coordinator Mark Banker, 58; special teams coach Bruce Read, 51; and offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh, 51. All three coached for at least 10 years at Oregon State.

Read and Banker have a history with Riley that dates to their time together with the San Diego Chargers from 1999 to 2001.

Additionally, receivers coach Brent Brennan has been mentioned in reports as likely to follow to Riley. Brennan, a 1996 UCLA graduate, coached Brandin Cooks, the 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner, at Oregon State.

Riley said he planned to meet with the remaining coaches at Nebraska but that he could not assure any positions. Bo Pelini was fired Nov. 30 after seven seasons. Barney Cotton, assistant head coach under Pelini, will serve as interim coach for Nebraska's bowl game.

Riley will not be involved in bowl preparations.
Welcome to the mailbag. This is a safe place that allows the free expression of ideas. Let your power animal run wild, just please clean up after it.

Couple of questions about the departure of Oregon State offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf (Eric and Benny, questions received) mainly inquiring as to the direction of the offense, what it means for Sean Mannion and how this impacts the team this close to recruiting.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsWill Oregon State QB Sean Mannion miss coach Danny Langsdorf, who is heading to the NFL? Sure, but it shouldn't affect his production.
Kevin Gemmell: First, I’m not sure what this does for Mannion. I’m hoping to get him on the phone sometime in the next couple of days to chat about it. We’re working on that. I do know that Mannion specifically cited Langsdorf as a reason for him coming back another year. He wasn’t the only reason, but he was important enough for the QB to make note of it.

As for what it means for the direction of the offense. Not too much, I don’t think. Mike Riley has basically been the offensive coordinator the last couple of seasons anyway, calling all of the plays. And you can’t argue with OSU’s offensive production the last couple of seasons. It’s the defense that cost it some games in 2013. You could probably make a case that Brandin Cooks leaving might have the bigger impact than Langsdorf. After all, Biletnikoff winners don’t come around all that often.

Possible replacements? The trend -- at least among the league’s departed defensive coordinators -- has been to keep it in-house. And if that’s the case, maybe wide receivers coach Brent Brennan gets a long look. In three years in Corvallis he’s helped develop, among others, Cooks, Markus Wheaton and James Rodgers. Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh is another interesting name. He’s been around nine years and is extremely well respected. Just floating that one for kicks. I have no idea if he’s interested.

As for recruiting, I talked to someone in the know at Oregon State who said Riley isn’t too concerned about it right now. Is it possible that they lose a commit over this? Maybe. But no doubt Riley has already reached out or made visits to all of Langsdorf’s targets and assured them that the buck stops with him offensively.

So the takeaway is this -- Langsdorf was a very good position coach. That’s why he’s been offered a position to keep doing it at the next level. But it’s hard not imagine Riley isn’t still going to be the primary play-caller, regardless of who gets the OC gig. And with Mannion back for another season, the Beavers should be pretty potent again if they can find some receivers (paging Victor Bolden?) and get the running game going.

Michael in Phoenix writes: It has been thoroughly discussed how ASU is losing 9-starters on defense. While this is disconcerting, ASU also welcomes back most of its explosive offense. Not going to ask you to predict next season’s outcome just yet, but what would you characterize as a successful season in Year 3 under CTG? 8 wins? 9 wins? 10? (It goes without saying a win over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named down south is mandatory).

Kevin Gemmell: Offense is nice. But as your coach is fond of saying -- defense wins, wait for it … championships. OK, so Todd Graham isn’t the first guy to come up with that one. But I know he believes in it. And I know he makes his living on that side of the football. And when you look at all of the talent they are losing -- combined with a lack of experienced depth -- then the Sun Devils are probably going to have to win some track meets.

And that’s OK. As you pointed out, they are pretty loaded offensively. Losing Marion Grice and his 20 touchdowns is obviously a hit. But Taylor Kelly returns at quarterback and we got glimpses of what D.J. Foster is capable of as the No. 1 back. What we saw in those glimpses was inconsistency. At times, brilliant and electric. Other times, he looked like a young back. Which is expected. There are also some depth issues across the offensive line that will have to be addressed.

But when you look at the potential of the passing attack, it’s pretty scary. Combine Kelly with returning Jaelen Strong and the addition of Eric Lauderdale, that’s going to be a potent air strike. Lauderdale is one of the top JC wide receivers in the country. Graham hit a home run when he brought in Strong, also a JC transfer, last season. He’s done it again with the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Lauderdale, who runs in the 4.4 range. He picked the Sun Devils over Florida, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas Tech and Washington, to name a few.

So yes, I expect the offense to be really good. It’s going to have to be. But given what Graham has accomplished in his first two seasons, I think folks would be disappointed with anything less than eight wins. But a hat trick against the Wildcats will go a long way, even if they don’t repeat as South champs.

Scott in Concord writes: Did you know that when the Pac-12 lunch links post a link to the Seattle Times, it asks the reader for a subscription to view the article? I am pretty sure ESPN has subscriptions to these links, but I think people should haven't to pay for subscriptions for links posted from your site. Thanks.

Kevin Gemmell: Ted touched on this in his mailbag last week. This is the way newspapers are trending. Having spent the bulk of my career coming home with ink on my fingers, I can tell you that it’s an industry that is struggling to find a viable business model for making money on the Web.

Just for kicks, you should watch this. It’s scary interesting.

As for the alternative, it’s tough to find a link for every school each day -- especially in the offseason. The other option is that the school doesn’t get a link for that day. Would you guys prefer that? Let us know. But we try very hard to make sure every school is linked. We’ll obviously continue to look for free options. But if a non-pay option isn’t available, you have free will to do what you want. You can either pay for the information, or not. The market will decide if there is enough demand to pay for content. We’re just putting it out there.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Reilly, Shayn Reilly
AP Photo/Rick BowmerThings are looking up for Trevor Reilly and his daughter, Shayn, who has been battling cancer.
FG in Seattle writes: You made Trevor Reilly from Utah your No. 20 pick on your postseason list of Top 25 conference players. You point out he played through a torn ACL in 2012. Per the Pac 12 channel, he played this entire season with his 11-month-old daughter going through chemotherapy for a renal cancer and was due to be done in December if all went well. Is there some type of public update on this story? If there is, and it's good news, a lot of Pac 12 fans outside of Utah would like to hear it. Thanks.

Kevin Gemmell: The last public report I saw about this was last month following the Utah-Colorado game. And the news appears to be very good.

I’ve known Trevor since he was a sophomore at Valley Center High School and covered him through his prep days into the Mountain West and finally through the Pac-12. That’s one of my favorite parts of the job is seeing these guys as high school players going on to have great college careers and then into the professional ranks. I’m thrilled for him and his family.

Trev on the West Coast writes: Read the article about the ACC stepping up its scheduling for the upcoming year, however I can't help but notice with its eight-game conference schedule, each team only averages 9.35 big boy teams (ACC/BIG12/B1G/PAC12/SEC/ND/BYU). So I checked each conference to see the stats: BIG12 -- 10.1; PAC 12 -- 10; ACC -- 9.35; B1G -- 9.14; SEC -- 8.88. My question is when will the polls actually stop ranking teams for good records against weak OCCs and actually make you beat people before you get ranked? On a side note, if you are curious how big a difference there is between nine and eight conference games, use the NCAA game and swap the PAC and SEC and watch how in 2-3 years the number of ranked teams each year is flopped.

Kevin Gemmell: What you have to understand is that “the polls” aren’t one single, entity. They consist of dozens of voters. And each of those voters has their own value system that they apply to factors like strength of schedule, overall record, good wins vs. good losses, etc.

You can see it when Ted and I do our weekly rankings. He and I differ quite a bit on certain things. I tend to not punish teams as much for losing to good teams on the road. Ted, however, clearly lets his time in the South bias his views to the point where it gets nauseating. I jest, of course.

The polls are a human system. And with human systems come flaws. At least they are perceived as flaws because you don’t agree with the way someone is voting. They think their vote is perfect.

My good friend Jon Wilner is one of the more renegade voters out there. And he and I have had many, many discussions about how he votes. I don’t always agree with him. But I also know he’s not just throwing darts. He takes it very seriously. I’ve seen him after games furiously scribbling out his Top 25 in his notepad, and his voting system works for him.

Regional bias comes into play -- as well as what we see with our own eyes. Trying to make sense of it all can make you go koo-koo bananas.

Cougy the Coug in Spokane, Wash. writes: Great job leaving Deone Bucannon off of your departing players list. He was only an All-American!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kevin Gemmell: Thank you for your interest in the Pac-12 blog’s reading comprehension seminar and your gratuitous use of exclamation points. I’m afraid this is the advanced course. Ted already covered remedial reading last week. Your submission is appreciated.
The Pac-12 wide receiver hierarchy probably looks a little something like this: Robert Woods, Marqise Lee (feel free to flip-flop those two at your leisure), Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson. Some pretty elite guys.

That's usually followed with an: "Oh yeah, doesn't Oregon State have a guy that's pretty good, too?"

"Haha, yeah, that sounds about right," says Markus Wheaton with a chuckle.

To the folks in Corvallis, he's a bona fide superstar. But in a conference that will probably own the Biletnikoff Award this year, separating yourself as a superstar in a pack of superstars isn't always easy.

"I try not to worry about that stuff," Wheaton said. "I'm more focused on what we've got here."

It's got to bruise the ego even a little bit, though. Right?

"Not really. It just makes you want to work harder," Wheaton said.

[+] EnlargeMarkus Wheaton
Jim Z. Rider/US Presswire"It just makes you want to work harder," Markus Wheaton said of competing with other Pac-12 stars.
Wheaton was definitely a victim of the Beavers' lack of success last season. He only found the end zone once, but caught 73 balls for 986 yards and was the ultimate security blanket for green quarterback Sean Mannion.

"If we won nine games last year like we did a couple of years ago, more people would know about him," said OSU head coach Mike Riley. "That's a big factor. I think our team will be better next year and that will help. He just needs to keep growing and doing what he does. Then our team needs to improve around him."

Mannion showed tremendous potential in his first season as a starter -- throwing for 16 touchdowns, more than 3,300 yards and completing 64.5 percent of his balls. He also looked like a first-year starter, tossing 18 interceptions.

With a more efficient Mannion and a stronger running game to support the passing attack, Wheaton figures to make the jump from "that Oregon State guy" to being known as one of the elite receivers in the conference.

"For me, it's all about working on the small things," Wheaton said. "I've worked on my blocking, because I want that to be a big part of my game. But for us, it's going to be the details. Too many times last year the little things got away from us. This year's team is going to be very detail-oriented."

Riley recalls when Wheaton first came to OSU. He was pure speed, without much nuance for the position. Now he's evolved to a point where Riley considers him in that top class of Pac-12 receivers.

"He can run with anybody, catch with anybody and has great ability to run with the ball after the catch," said Riley -- who also integrates Wheaton into the running game. Last year he carried 25 times for 7.6 yards per carry. "He's just a fast, gifted athlete. Early on for him, it was just run. Now he's learned how to run a route and he's got good chemistry with the quarterback."

Wheaton is not a particularly vocal guy. That's something he's working on. He knows the very youthful Beavers roster is thirsty for leadership. He's raising his voice more, but wants his teammates to learn by his example.

"I'm consistently pushing him," OSU wide receivers coach Brent Brennan said recently. "And the best thing about him is he wants to be coached. He wants to be better. He wants to learn. He wants to improve his game. I'm constantly in his ear, on his butt about what's right, what's not right, what can be faster, what his tendencies are ... he continues to learn and improve."

Mailbag: Who cares about Willie Lyles?

March, 25, 2011
Who owns Robert Redford?

We may have an angle to fire-up the Utah-Colorado rivalry (albeit a contrived, forced one)!

The response to the Pac-12's blog request for food and drink recommendations in Salt Lake City and Boulder from Utah and Colorado fans has been huge. And when I say "huge," I mean it took me three days to shuffle through all of the notes.

And from reading the notes, it became clear that Colorado fans particularly like "The Sink" -- a Boulder institution -- and many noted that Redford used to work there.

And, of course, Utah fans also know that Redford founded the Sundance Resort in Utah.

So where does Redford's heart belong? Colorado, where he went to school, or Utah, where he built a resort community and lives?

Ready, set ... insult each other! (You may need to consult Oregon and Washington fans about generating endless supplies of bile, though you, of course, have experience with Nebraska and BYU fans).

Anyway, just a thought.

Follow me on Twitter. (Talking to you, Sundance!)

To the notes.

Pedro from Eugene writes: Ted, Today the headline of your links was, "Another Duck knows Lyles." Who cares? Because of who this guy is, hundreds if not thousands of current and past college football players know him. This Oregon thing has been blown so far out of proportion they are writing articles about a guy with a different mentor knowing him; a guy who didn't even play a down of football for Oregon. Wow.

Ted Miller: Pedro, the simple answer is the NCAA is investigating Willie Lyles and other "street agents," and if the NCAA cares, you should care.

Lyles doesn't know thousands of college football players. I doubt he even "knows" a hundred. What I do know is that he knows a lot of players who were highly rated high school prospects, some of whom ended up at Oregon, including Dontae Williams, the player the article is about. Whether Williams played a down or not is irrelevant. He signed with Oregon and was on the team in 2010.

You say "wow," as if you're dumbfounded. You're either trying to spin things or you aren't paying attention. This a serious NCAA matter, whether or not the Ducks are found, in the end, to have violated NCAA rules.

The fundamental lesson in all this, however, is simple. Dear top high school prospects. You do not need to suddenly adopt a "mentor" your junior or senior years of high school. If a guy shows up and offers his mentorship AFTER you already are a nationally known prospect, know that what he offers is worthless to you but probably is valuable to him.

Dustin from Soldotna, Alaska writes: Ted,I was just reviewing your "Who's back from the top-25?" list. I can agree with all of them, but at the bottom you have the players on the left-out list. I have failed to see anywhere James Rogers being mentioned. I understand there is still a question mark by his name pending his full recovery, but shouldn't he still be considered at the very least with an * by his name? If he is able to play this year, knowing his love and intensity for playing the game he will shine like he has year in and year out. He would have no doubt been on your top-25 at the end of the season and the Beavs would have played in a bowl game without question if he had not been injured in Arizona. Alas that is all just would have, could have, should have stuff, but none-the-less I still think there should be consideration regarding the upcoming season when you compile your list this summer and James Rogers being included.I would love to hear your thoughts.

Ted Miller: Because he was out most of the year, James Rodgers was not considered for the top-25, but it would have been wise of me to at least mention his expected return (hopefully) in 2011. Rodgers WILL be in the preseason top-25 if he is cleared to play.

After all, he was ranked No. 6 heading into the 2010 season.

Greg from Hillsboro, Ore., writes: Wazzu. 2011 in the Pac-12. No one is paying any attention. I think they will surprise people this next season. I think they will win at least 5 games, maybe as many as 7. Wins: Idaho State, UNLV, @SDSU, @Colorado (they are terrible too), Oregon State. Losses: Stanford, @Oregon, @California, Arizona State. Unknowns/Swings: @UCLA, Utah, @Washington.They might even shock me and win all those swing games and win 8 games.Their DL has more depth, as does the LB group. DB's are a BIG question. Their OL is going to be better, and their WR group is pretty decent/good. And Tuel is a good QB. Lots of returning starters and players with an upgraded talent level. They gave OSU, UCLA, Stanford, Cal and UW all they could handle last year.... WSU will be better than many predict or think.As Gomer Pyle (in)famously said, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!"Doubt not Oregon fans Ted, you know better.

Ted Miller: If Washington State avoids the injury bug, I see it as a threat to win six games and be competitive with just about any team they play. I think the key is line play on both sides of the ball. If the Cougs can run and stop the run -- at least moderately -- much will be different in 2011. I think they are better than "decent" at receiver, and the secondary will be much improved in 2011, particularly if it gets help from a pass rush.

Not sure I'd write in road wins at San Diego State, Colorado and Oregon State. The Aztecs are no pushover, and I'm getting a feeling many of you old school Pac-10 fans are underestimating Colorado. And the Beavers are going to be plenty motivated at home to get revenge versus the Cougars.

Still, your point is solid. Washington State was competitive in 2010. The Cougs will take another step forward in 2011. They are no longer an easy out.

Eric from Albany, Ore., writes: Hey Ted, I love the coaching changes Riley has made this off-season. I have felt that the beavers have looked a little "old skool" on both sides of the ball for a while now. Last year was certainly a disappointment, but not entirely unexpected. What do you think about the changes at Oregon State? Do you think we can expect an immediate impact or are we more likely to only see an impact in recruiting, which could take a few seasons?

Ted Miller: Considering Oregon State had built a reputation over the past decade-plus of producing plenty of top-flight linebackers, it's hard to say that Greg Newhouse, the longest tenured coach in the program at 14 seasons, was dispatched because of his coaching. Though the Beavers LB play wasn't terribly good in 2010. The move did clearly show that coach Mike Riley was unhappy with the way things were going and he was willing to make a bold move. Riley is known for his loyalty to his staff, so it's doubtful that he made a change just to shake things up.

I don't know much about Brent Brennan (receivers) and Chris Brasfield (running backs). Both will be coaching critical positions for the Beavers in 2011. It would be easier for both to break in if they saw a Rodgers brother lining up with their unit this spring. From what I gather -- and a number of Beavers observers have written it -- recruiting was a big reason for making changes.

One of the more notable changes was defensive coordinator Mark Banker taking over the linebackers and Keith Heyward, who coached cornerbacks in 2010, taking over the entire secondary. That seems like a nice vote of confidence in Heyward. Coaching secondary is the quickest route to a coordinator role.

As for immediate impact, hard to say. Having good players helps. Brennan probably will look like a really good coach if he gets to pair a healthy Rodgers with Markus Wheaton. As for an impact in recruiting, we'll see next February.

Ryan from Tacoma writes: Just curious, wondering if you can quickly indulge me (and fully aware that if you do indulge me you possibly open yourself up to eventually making statements like "Player X is not in my top 350 because of Y"), but why did you leave Victor Aiyewa out of your top 45?Being a Dawg fan I know how inconsistent he was, but it seems that the conference's leader in tackles for loss should be one of its top 45 players.

Ted Miller: Aiyewa was a tough player to judge. He led the Pac-10 with 21 tackles for a loss, but he didn't earn All-Conference honors. I asked a couple of people about him during the season, and it seemed he was a bit of a "feast or famine" guy. He either made a big play or got blocked.

That was sort of what happened with Arizona DE Ricky Elmore. He led the Pac-10 in sacks with 11 but also was inconsistent at times, though he did end up second-team All-Pac-10.

Casey from Parts Unknown writes: I understand your perception of Havili being the number #1 fullback in the conference, but let me say you are wrong here. This perception has been driven by all the media. Every time you turn on a USC game the announcers massage the USC ego and talk about what a great player he is. But talk to people who critically watch what happens on the field, NFL scouts, etc and see who they would rather have blocking for Chris Johnson, Adrian Petersen, or Maurice Jones-Drew. Havili is no doubt a good player, but he is not a fullback in the traditional sense. He is a tailback who happens to line up in the fullback position on the field. While he is a good receiver and runner, the main job of a fullback is to block and Havili pales in comparison to Owen in this regard. Ask any linebacker in the Pac-10 who they would rather go up against in the middle of the hole and there would be no stuttering on their part. Let's see, Owen was selected to the Senior Bowl to play fullback, where was Havili? As you stated Owen was 10th in the Heisman voting, where was Havili? Owen won the Paul Hornung Award, where was Havili? As you stated some of this is due to Owen playing linebacker, but it is clear that he will be playing fullback at the next level. When it comes to playing fullback in the traditional sense, I am sorry, there is no comparison.

Ted Miller: I did notice the other day that's NFL draft folks actually have Marecic rated ahead of Havili, which did surprise me.

It will be interesting to see who gets picked first. Marecic is a better blocker than Havili, though I've heard that Havili is a better pass blocker. Also, Marecic is not a natural receiver and Havili is. That's a big skill for a fullback.

There aren't many traditional, lead-blocker fullbacks in the NFL anymore. My feeling is that Havili will be drafted before Marecic because of his versatility. But I could be wrong.

And, again, I love Marecic as a player and student-athlete.

Scott from Gilbert, Ariz., writes: Cliff Harris on the top 25. No doubt that the guy has skills but it may be his real talent is getting coaches, sports writers, teammates and fans to all shake their heads and say "Man, if that guy just , he would be a top 5 pick!". It takes real talent to get that many people to speak the same phrase in unison.

Ted Miller: The best analysis on Cliff Harris yet.

Riley makes changes to Oregon State staff

March, 21, 2011
Oregon State has hired two new assistant coaches, but the bigger news is Greg Newhouse is out as linebackers coach.

Newhouse, who's been at Oregon State for 14 seasons, "was offered another position within the program, but elected to pursue other opportunities," according to a news release from the school.

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker will coach linebackers next fall. He supervised the safeties last season. Cornerbacks coach Keith Heyward will now be in charge of the entire secondary.

Meanwhile, Chris Brasfield was hired as running backs coach and Brent Brennan has been hired to coach receivers.

Brasfield, a defensive graduate assistant for Oregon last season, takes over for Reggie Davis, who left for the San Francisco 49ers. Brennan coached receivers at San Jose State last season. Beavers assistant head coach Jay Locey coached receivers last fall but will be in charge of the tight ends this season. Graduate assistant Robin Ross, who was hired for a full-time post at UNLV, coached tight ends in 2010.

Brennen had been at San Jose State since 2005. Before that, he spent four seasons as the wide receivers coach at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. A former UCLA receiver -- he played on the 1994 Rose Bowl team -- he previously was a GA at both Washington (1999) and Arizona (2000).

As for Brasfield, prior to arriving at Oregon in March of 2010, he spent three years as the running backs coach at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He was a receiver and return specialist at TCU in 1994 and ’95 after transferring from UTEP, where he played from 1991-93.

Here's the Beavers updated coaching roster under Riley: Jay Locey, assistant head coach/tight ends; Mark Banker, defensive coordinator/linebackers; Bruce Read, coordinator of special teams; Danny Langsdorf, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks; Chris Brasfield, running backs; Brent Brennan, wide receivers; Mike Cavanaugh, offensive line; Keith Heyward, secondary; Joe Seumalo, defensive line; Alan Darlin, graduate assistant/asst. linebackers; Mitch Meeuwsen, graduate assistant/asst. secondary.