THERE ARE MYRIAD reasons why losing secondary coach Keith Heyward is a body blow for Oregon State, but at the very top of the list is the immediate impact. Beyond that, the departure is more proof that the college football world is changing. The question now is if Oregon State will change with it.
First, the here and now. Heyward was the point man for several key recruits for the Beavers and a significant recruiting factor on all six DB verbals.
As Mike Riley said to the Oregonian, “the best way to say it is that there’s no ‘good’ timing.” – but with just weeks to go before Letter Of Intent Day, other than immediately before fall camp starts, there can’t be much worse.
As a coach, Heyward was still more or less learning on the job. He started as a graduate assistant, was promoted to cornerbacks coach when Nigel Burton took the defensive coordinator position at Nevada, and then received an expanded role just last season with the staff reorganization and Mark Banker moving from safeties to linebackers. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a big loss in terms of x’s and o’s – but unfortunately, the truth goes deeper than that.
The truth is, Heyward was an outstanding coach for the Beavers. A former player once told me that Heyward was never the biggest, fastest or strongest guy. He wasn’t a natural corner like former Beaver great Dennis Weathersby – but he had an deeper understanding of leverage, position, technique, a sharp eye for detail – and the ability to impart all that to his players. He didn’t just help make his fellow corners better players, he continually taught the wide receivers how to improve their craft as well.
Beyond that, he was (and is) a highly valued commodity in college football today -- A bright, young, charismatic, hard-working African-American man with ties to the greater Los Angeles area. That makes him an ace recruiter on any staff -- and an incredibly important piece for Oregon State, and one that won’t be easy to replace.
Heyward’s expanded role last season, his growth as a coach and his success as a recruiter earned him a significant raise. It’s just a shame that Oregon State isn’t the program giving him that raise. It’s understandable that a young, ambitious coach would want to “spread his wings” and attack new challenges, but this move does hurt. It hurts because of the timing, it hurts because Oregon State has to a certain degree “invested” in Heyward’s development and it hurts because Heyward is a Beaver but left his alma mater for a rival Pac-12 program.
Water under the bridge now, as Oregon State looks to fill the void. And enough about extolling Keith Heyward’s virtues – we should thank him for the time he spent in Corvallis and move on -- and use this as an opportunity to upgrade the staff in the face of a disappointing setback.
RILEY HAS STATED stated that he has names in mind – that he always has names in mind when considering additions to his coaching staff. But he’s also said he doesn’t plan a hire until sometime in February, after Signing Day.
There are a number of scenarios that can play out, from again re-organizing the staff to return Mark Banker to coach the secondary and hiring a new linebackers coach, moving former All-Conference Beaver DB Jay Locey over to coach the secondary. And there are young coaches with ties to the LA area with Oregon State connections out there who would undoubtedly leap at the opportunity to move up to the Pac 12 ranks, like former Beaver cornerback Aric Williams, who is currently coaching DB’s at Montana.
Here’s hoping that Coach Riley has something bigger in mind. . And a post on the BF.C message board got me thinking.
Actually, the post hit me like a bolt of lightening. This is why Oregon State is struggling at this point in the growth of the program. It’s commitment.
For some reason, Oregon State seems to be stuck in the “more for less” mode. It is happening with the coaches, where Heyward was near the bottom of the Pac 12 assistant coaching pay scale. It has happened with recruiting, where the Beavers have over the last several seasons chased more after “projects” that didn’t pan out and who were nowhere near Pac-12 ready. Guys who were tall and fast like Rory Ross, or had NFL bloodlines and little more like Timi Oshinowo, or the Pankeys, or the countless “ceremonial signees” out of the islands who were never heard from again after LOI Day like Anthony Siilata and many others.
The Beavers have prided themselves on their sense of family, and their blue collar, go to work attitude which is the very definition of doing more with less. But there’s a difference between maximizing resources and limiting your potential by trying to save a buck.
As the post said, Bill Moos does in fact get it, and proved it by abandoning the budget staff on hand to pursue Mike Leach, one of the hottest coaching commodities around. Steve Sarkisian gets it, too – by the way, he’s chasing after 29 year old Cal DL coach Tosh Lupoi, who has deep roots to the Cal area and played defensive line and Cal. It’s been said that it may take a million dollars to get Lupoi away from Cal, and yet Sarkisian is still calling.
It’s time for the Beavers to make a move. Or risk being left behind.