Oregon State Coach Mike Riley talked about Cody Vaz, Jordan Poyer, Markus Wheaton and the elements that made up a comeback from a 3-9 season to an Alamo Bowl appearance. The comments came during a joint appearance with Texas coach Mack Brown.
Q. Talk about Jordan and Markus and their last game and sticking with the program and they were at the pep rally last night and what it meant for them to finish strong.
Well, Jordan Poyer and Markus Wheaton are two really, really good stories, you know, from the moment we recruited those guys they began to set a standard. They're different stories. Markus was highly recruited out of Arizona, and I think primarily his chief recruiter to Oregon State was James Rodgers. They hit it off when Markus visited.
Markus was actually he didn't red shirt, he was always very talented, but the thing I'm really excited about, I think Markus embraced college. He actually went with a group of our student athletes called Beavers Without Borders, went to Guatamala for a week, helped to build a house for a family, came back. I really think it impacted a lot of who he is today, and he just started growing as a player, fun to work with, loves the game, loves to know how to do it better.
And Jordan Poyer came basically unrecruited out of a little fishing town right where Lewis and Clark came out of the Columbia River, Astoria, Oregon, one of the oldest towns in the west, and not a lot of football players have come out of there, mostly fishermen and loggers.
But Jordan, we knew him because he had been in our high school camp with his team for about three years, and offered him a scholarship, thought for sure he'd red shirt, he didn't, and he ended up being a good special teams player, then found his niche at corner, and he does everything for us. If we didn't have Jordan Poyer it would take five guys to replace him and probably the most competitive or at least in the top five guys of the most competitive guys I've ever been around in my life. Loves to play.
Him and Markus were instrumental in the leadership that started in January with this team, and both are like team captains.
Q. Coach Riley, you talked about what a fun and special year this has been, and it's been a feel good story certainly in Oregon and around the country. Talk about what a win tomorrow would mean to cap it off. I know the players have talked about not be satisfied, but talk about capping off this special year if you can win.
It is for this team, we have kind of managed to when you're coming off of 3 9, you certainly don't look at too big of a picture down the road when you begin. So this team has done a great job of staying in the moment and playing, practicing for each ballgame. They haven't all worked out, obviously, but that's been I think this team likes football. They like to practice and prepare and like the process, which is for us as coaches, that's a good world to be in.
You know, I think that this game, it's a tremendous reward for a good season. I feel like, Mack alluded to it, we also use it as a kickoff for the upcoming season. A lot of young guys work during the bowl preparation. So it's a great time for a football program.
And there haven't been, in the history of our school, very many double digit win seasons. I think two others. So if we can do that, then we make another place in our football history at Oregon State.
All those kinds of things are good, but playing the game, competing against the University of Texas and doing everything we can to win, that just brings it down to the process of playing football. You hope when they put the ball down that your team is ready to compete.
Q. Mike, you always talk about the resolve your players showed after last season to have something better this year, but what about the coaching staff? There must have been some serious meetings after that season about changing things or whatever, but how was that for the coaching staff?
Well, you know, all those kinds of things in football or in sports are hard like that, so I so you basically, with your staff and I've had real nice continuity.
I have Mark Banker. Our defensive coordinator and I have coached every game together at Oregon State through the 12 years, and I know Mark well, and Bruce Read has been my special teams coach for a long time.
And Danny Langsdorf has been with me for a long time. So we take a look hard look at the evaluation of what we need to do strategically football wise, what we might need to do in all the other areas of our program, and we tried to examine all of it, and you have to I think be willing to make some changes.
We had to look at our team real hard and decide, okay, these guys have a chance to be the play makers for us, how are we going to get them the ball, they have to get the football for us to be good, and all sorts of things like that.
And then we also looked at defensively we've been real good defensively and then dropped off badly, and we looked at what's missing here, and so we've been more multiple defensively as far as substitution defenses with nickel and dime than ever before, and it's given us a couple more curve balls defensively that I think have really, really helped.
But I think the biggest thing there is development of players and teaching players how to play, and that's what I like most about football, most about our coaching staff is they take a lot of pride in teaching, and so we were challenged with 3 9 and trying to do the best teaching job of our life, so I'm proud of them for that part of it because of all the stuff, schemes, plays, all that, I think how to play and teaching guys how to play and developing players is really what we're supposed to do.
Q. Along with the impetus your staff put in development, also talk about what the seniors did after the end of the season during spring practice and also the summer in trying to get the team back on the rails and really work together as far as setting the stage for the season.
Well, I think it's difficult to have a turnaround or to make progress if you don't have the older guys in your program in a position of setting that example. I think it can be done, but I think it's more difficult, and so I think we started a year ago two freshmen defensive ends, and so you can see those kind of guys working hard, developing if they have all the right stuff around them, and they're good guys. They want to get better and work hard.
But I think what Andrew Seumalo, what Jordan Poyer, what Markus Wheaton, what they did as senior players that are good they're good players, and they're out there working real hard. I understand Markus had his own personal two a days all summer and grabbed quarterbacks and go all that kind of stuff. I think it's a great sign. You don't want to be too crazy about what might happen, but I told all of our folks as we went into the year, I've got a pretty good vibe about this group because everything looks good. We've got to go play now, but I think that really they set the tone in the off season, spring ball, summer workouts, fall camp was outstanding, and then they went and played. And that was all good stuff.
Q. Mike, your impressions of Cody Vaz, that first start in Provo, Utah, can you talk about that day and what that meant to your program?
MIKE RILEY: Well, I think it was a big day for the Beavers and a great day for Cody. I've always respected Cody as a young man and as a quarterback, and I've always wondered about him playing, actually. He's been a top competitor to play.
We haven't been a team that's alternated quarterbacks through the years, so he really hadn't gotten much of a chance, and when given the chance against a really good BYU defense, I was just impressed in their place. That whole picture of him just going down there and playing really his first significant action and playing with the poise that he did, I was just totally impressed by it.
It was neat to see our team's reaction to it, too. They were all happy for Cody because he's kind of been in the background, but I think they all respected not only his ability but also who he was, that he was always just ready to go, and he just proved it.