10.Aug.2011 Rethinking the offense to fit personnel
I don't think I'd garner much backlash if I said the Beaver's biggest strength is their wide receivers. Right now, it looks like Wheaton and Rodgers will line up in the base formation. It would be a real shame to have Cooks, Gwachum, and Bishop sitting on any given play. So, the question begs how do the coaches get them all on the field at once? A popular solution amongst fans is the Air Raid offense. It would get at least one more WR on the field, and would give the Beavers and identity. Less considered, but more importantly, it would masks some of the Beaver's biggest weaknesses. For example:
1. Short passes replace the running game.
Why it fits Oregon State: The Beavers don't have a dominant running back on the roster nor do they have an offensive line that can run block.
2. Short passes negate the blitz.
Why it fits Oregon State: There is nothing to suggest the Beaver's offensive line won't once again be the weakest link.
3. QB lines up in the shotgun.
Why it fits Oregon State: See above. Any way to buy time is a good thing.
It's a compelling case. So, the question becomes, why not run this offense?
My guess is Riley sees it as unbalanced. But, there isn't a whole lot of difference between a 2-yard pass with RAC (run after catch) versus a handoff. In other words, the short passing game is your running game. From there, the QB can throw intermediate and deep passes, or handoff traditionally. That is a form of balance.
There are a couple legit cons. The first is the weather in Corvallis. Wet conditions aren't ideal for a heavy passing game. Also, the Air Raid requires the QB to be highly intelligent, read defenses, and audible. Ryan Katz hasn't shown he can do that. These are legit concerns. In fact, they're the two reasons I'm not completely gung ho about an Air Raid offense.
The best compromise is probably employing more 4WR sets (ace spread, trips, etc) and even 5WR sets so the Beavers can get their best players on the field. Another option is making Gwachum a hybrid TE. It would also be prudent to make each WR's positions interchangeable (e.g. each WR knows each others' routes), as this would give greater versatility and keep the defense honest. Riley could then find advantageous matchups depending on down and distance.
The bottom line is that the coaching staff needs to find a way to use this stockpiled talent. To have three or four potential all-conference receivers sitting on any given play is a problem. A good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. The solution lies in outside the box thinking, something Riley is not very skilled at. What we do know is that the ideal solution will not come to be on it's own or via blind luck. As a great philosopher once wrote, "if the ship-building art were in the wood, it would produce the same results by nature." Riley needs to start thinking like a crafty artisan (see Chip Kelly) rather than an antiquated simpleton. He's been given the tools…