CORVALLIS — Mike Riley says the beauty of sports is that you always get another shot.
So for the Oregon State football team it's "ready or not, here we go" as the Beavers opened fall camp Monday, hoping that this shot is better than last year's.
By now, the Beavers' woes of 2011 are well known: Oregon State opened the season in disastrous fashion with a 29-28 overtime loss to FCS Sacramento State, and it went downhill from there as OSU missed a bowl game for the second consecutive year.
But that's behind them, says Riley, and he is optimistic about what's in store for the coming months.
"What you need to do with the past is learn from it," Riley said prior to the start of practice. "We've done a lot of studying, but we don't want to spend a lot of time with it. Everything for us is about pushing forward. There's no reason to let the past drag you down."
Riley has raved about the Beavers' offseason work, but now it's time to see whether real progress was made.
Plenty of questions surround the 2012 squad, the biggest of which involves the offensive line. Riley has all but guaranteed that highly rated freshman Isaac Seumalo — his dad is defensive line coach Joe Seumalo — will start, most likely at center.
"Physically he's very capable but mentally he's sharp and tough, too," Riley said of Seumalo. "You don't want to heap too much responsibility on a young guy, but if you're going to, this is the right guy to do it with."
An improved offensive line would go a long way toward fixing a running game that's been missing in action the past two seasons, but the emergence of a No. 1 running back would also help.
Riley has set a goal of 1,700 to 1,800 yards on the ground, though he admits he's not sure if that will come from one, two or a whole committee of tailbacks.
Storm Woods seemed to be the leader coming out of spring ball, but a healthy Malcolm Agnew has proved he can do some damage, too.
The Beavers will also add highly touted freshman Chris Brown to the mix.
"That's a big issue for us and really a key element to our success," Riley said. "Our inability to run the ball the last two years, last year was glaring, you put that with a young quarterback (Sean Mannion) and that's not a very good recipe.
"If we want to be who we need to be, we have to run the ball."
Defensively, the Beavers look to be in pretty good shape.
Riley likes the depth on the defensive line, and OSU will get a big boost with the return of defensive tackle Castro Masaniai, who sat out in the spring with a broken leg.
Senior Jordan Poyer, one of the top defensive backs in the country, might be OSU's best all-around player. He anchors a veteran secondary that looked impressive in spring, arguably OSU's best position group.
The Beavers are changing their practice routines and Riley hopes it will have positive effects.
Riley wants the tempo to be faster and the results to be better.
"I'm looking forward to a lot of teaching getting done early," Riley said. "We've just got to get it right."
As practice began Monday, Riley was dealing with a personal issue. His father, Bud, a former Beaver assistant coach under Dee Andros and Craig Fertig, passed away Saturday near his home in central British Columbia at the age of 86.
Bud Riley was an assistant under Andros from 1965-72 and with Fertig in 1979.
He left OSU in 1972 for the Canadian Football League, where he served as the head coach at Toronto, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Calgary.