CORVALLIS — Rod Perry was intrigued.
The veteran secondary coach, considered one of the best technique teachers in the game, was in the "waiting period," that point of time when you've been released from one job (in this case, been fired by the Indianapolis Colts) and are sitting around hoping to hear about openings.
It's safe to say that Perry, who has 24 seasons worth of NFL experience, didn't expect that opening to be at a college. The 58-year-old coach hadn't been in the college game since 1988, so he was a little surprised when OSU coach Mike Riley picked up the phone to ask if Perry was interested in coming to work with the Beavers.
"The more I thought about it, the more rejuvenated I felt," Perry said recently as he stood on the field at Reser Stadium as the Beavers finished up spring practice. "The opportunity to coach young men both on and off the field, I'm having a lot of fun with it."
Of course, coaching in Corvallis, where the Beavers have missed two consecutive bowl trips, is a little different than coaching in Indianapolis, where the Colts won the 2007 Super Bowl. College players have a handful of other responsibilities — like school — and time limits on practice. They're also teenagers, which can cause a few headaches, though Perry is quick to point out with a laugh that "there are some teenagers in that league too but here, they're teenagers who listen."
That much is true — when Perry talks, Jordan Poyer is all ears.
Poyer is the Beavers' star in the secondary, an outstanding athlete who is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the country. And he is well aware that while he's already had some success in college, he can learn plenty from Perry.
"I had a meeting with all our (defensive backs) when he came in, no coaches, just players, and I said listen to him," Poyer said. "He's going to put us in a good position to make plays. He's been in the league, he's coached in the league, he's coached in college, so I'm just taking it all in. His resume speaks for itself."
Poyer and fellow cornerback Rashaad Reynolds rave about Perry's knowledge of the game, and Reynolds said he is continually blown away by Perry's ability to point out one little detail that can make a big difference in a play.
"The first time I met him we watched film for about an hour, he was pointing out little keys that I never really noticed before, like reading quarterback drops, looking at receivers' releases, things like that," Reynolds said. "He makes playing the game that much slower so you can just react."
Riley has said for years that he's enjoyed the stability of his staff; until last season, the Beavers had experienced next to no coaching turnover. But in the past two years Riley has brought in Perry, receivers coach Brent Brennan and running backs coach Chris Brasfield. And with Perry comes lots of skill and know-how.
"I think the neat thing about experience, especially quality experience, is that he's been through the gamut of coordinators on how they want to play," Riley said. "He can bring a broad perspective to what we do, and also personally adapt to what we do. The learning curve for him is not big; he's seen all the stuff."
Perry said he was cognizant of when he first arrived in Corvallis of not walking into a meeting with the secondary and instantly declaring himself an expert. In fact, he says he's noticed that players tend to listen more when you first ask them what they think about everything. That's a plus of the college game, as is the opportunity to develop players instead of being handed a mostly finished product.
"In the NFL you draft guys that you want, and you know their skill set, so a lot of the time it's more about teaching them your system," Perry said. "Here, it's exciting when you can have a guy for three or four years and help them develop."
Players and coaches seem excited for that, too. Perry is a very different personality than the guy he replaced, Keith Heyward, but players have adjusted to that, too. Where Heyward might have got in players' faces and been "a little more of a stickler," according to Poyer, Perry is more mellow, focusing on teaching the small details.
"It's night and day from Coach Heyward, but it's been great," Reynolds said. "He brings so much experience. He's focused on the little things, but it's the little things that are going to make us better."
Perry agrees. He says that when he first watched film of the secondary he saw a lot of talent and a lot of potential. And all that talk about how the defense might have regressed the past couple seasons, and the worry of OSU missing two bowl games in a row doesn't concern him.
"I understand they've been down the last couple years but they have won and this program knows how to win," Perry said. "I'm just here to help in any way I can."
When coach Perry talks, Oregon State players are all ears
CORVALLIS — Rod Perry was intrigued.