HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Oregon State coach Gary Andersen narrowed down the Beavers' point of emphasis that could lead improvement over last season's 2-10 showing to one simple goal: Improved physicality.
OSU needs more of it. Lots more. Or the Beavers will be dead in the water before the season begins.
"If it does not [improve] then we will be right where we were a year ago because we could not hang in there physically with people in our league week in and week out," Andersen said today during Pac-12 Media Days. "If you cannot do that, the way we want to play football and the way you have to play football to win at this level, you will not be successful."
Andersen's first season proved disastrous for the Beavers, who went 0-9 in conference play while ranking at or near the bottom of the Pac-12 in virtually every meaningful statistical category. Year two sees a program picked by the media to once again finish last in the Pac-12 North as well as the conference.
The Beavers are certainly capable of finishing higher than last. Climbing much higher than 10th, however, could require a quantum leap in all facets of the game, and that would only occur with extreme hard work at a bit of luck.
OSU junior wide receiver Victor Bolden Jr., named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, said the team has embraced the challenge of working harder to improve.
"Coach Andersen tells us to live in the hard," Bolden said. "And this offseason that's what we're doing, we've living in the hard, and grinding."
OSU must also mix in some talent and skill to win. The Beavers certainly lacked in those areas last season, especially on offense where the team adjusted to a new system. Andersen essentially tried to squeeze former coach Mike Riley's pro-style talent into a spread attack. The result was a team that ranked last in the Pac-12 in both scoring offense (19 points per game) and total offense (336.8 yards per game). Keep in mind that 10 of 12 conference teams averaged more than 395 yards and 30 points per game in 2015.
Andersen said he's already noticed signs of the team being much more comfortable within the system this year. Coaches know the players better; their personalities, deficiencies, strengths and temperments. Players also learned the same things about themselves, leading to improvement.
"It's much more comfortable as a head coach," Andersen said of fitting players to his system. "Much more comfortable as a position coach. And I believe our kids are much more comfortable with us as a whole, and with the scheme."
Bolden said he expects to play in a much more potent offense this season.
"The transition is not as rough," he said of the team's familiarity with the schemes. "Not as extreme. I think guys are picking it up good and the offense is rolling pretty smoothly. Good things are going to happen for us."
The Beavers showed major signs of improvement in the final game of last season, a 52-42 loss at Oregon.
"We're going to take the momentum we had in the Oregon game and transition that into the offseason and work hard and get ready for next season," Bolden said.
For the offense to take the next step, OSU must get much better production from the quarterback position.
Transfer quarterback Darrell Garrettson won the job during spring drills. He will give the team an upgrade at the position, especially in experience. He started 12 games at Utah State including five in 2014 before getting injured. He was off to a great start to the season, completing 67.4 percent of his passes for 1,140 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions.
"He understands the offense very well and he's such a dynamic player," Bolden said. "I think he is going to fit into our offense good and we're going to need him to do big things for our team to be good this year."
Seth Collins played quarterback much of last season but struggled. He is an elite athlete, however, and will remain a focal point of the offense as a receiver and, according to Andersen, will line up at running back and quarterback.
As for the defense, Bolden said it will be bolstered by guys taking more of a leadrship role. He said safety Devin Chappell, corner Treston Decoud, linebacker Dwayne Williams and defensive lineman Baker Pritchard are taking it upon themselves to make sure the rest of the defense falls in line with the team's commitment to improve.
Andersen's been involved in a reclimation project before. He turned around Utah State before going to Wisconsin and then landing at Oregon State.
"Ther's a lot of similarities," he said of what he did at Utah State and what he is trying to accomplish at OSU. He believes he can replicate that success in Corvallis.
"I love to be involved in a big boy fight," Andersen said.
OSU certainly has one in front of it.