"This is an outstanding group of young men," Riley said Tuesday. "Guys who can deliver some immediate help, and other guys who will be great in the program as they grow, mature and develop."
We evaluated, worked hard, recruited them. This is a whole bunch of good football players. They will be big members of our football team. Some sooner than others."
Seventeen players signed on the dotted line Wednesday, February 2. Perhaps the strongest part of the class is the offensive line where Michael Marks, Ian Brinker, Koinoa LaCount, and Gregg Peat signed. All four are aggressive players who can move and will add much needed depth to the offensive line in the upcoming years.
Recruiting solid offensive linemen was one of the top priorities for the 2005 staff. Fans saw the result of poor recruiting up front in 2004 when the Beavers struggled mightily to move the ball on the ground. The staff is obviously moving toward a more aggressive, athletic front. Combined with last year's four recruits (Jeremy Perry, Tavita Thompson, Adam Speer and Andy Levitre) the men in black have a young, strong foundation to build their offense from.
Another top priority was to bring in three cornerbacks, two to compete for playing time and one to redshirt. My hat is off to Riley for brining in aggressive, motivated junior college players in Edorian McCullough and Aaron Miller. Both will compete for a starting spot, as long as they stay focused on school work and receiver their AA degrees.
While the staff lost out on a couple other family battles (Austin Usher and Kevin Ellison) they did keep the Cornell connection alive as Bryant Cornell signed. Cornell was part of three players from the state of Oregon State signed with Oregon State, the other two being offensive lineman Michael Marks and safety Kevin Maher.
Another solid quarterback will be making his way to Corvallis, and maybe in time for spring practice, which will help his development tremendously. Sean Canfield was one of the first recruits to verbal to Riley and could be the first on campus. And let us not forget the talented Matt Moore who will definitely push for the starting gunslinger spot.
Running back Tirrell Thompson is explosive and could play on either side of the ball. Cornerback Patrick Henderson has the same aggressive mentality as McCullough and Miller and could push for playing time as a freshman.
Defensive tackle Wilson Holman is young, but big, and with a year in the weight room could become a force in the middle. Wide receiver Anthony Crosby is talented and can play on either side of the ball, but will probably remain as a receiver.
Running backs Nate Wright and Markel Devorce are steals as Wright represents another threat out of the backfield immediately while Devorce is the future. Safety Al Afalava can bring the pain and will be another good one in a long line of hard hitting safeties to put on a Beaver uniform.
Last but not least is linebacker Nick Thurston who will look to continue a strong tradition of great linebackers in Corvallis.
So, the staff hit their goals with the offensive line, the cornerbacks, and in-state recruiting. The Beavers do not need receivers as the current core is young and talented. The linebackers are solid as they picked up just one recruit. Same with the safeties.
Riley likes athletes and he brought in several that can play on either side of the ball. So, the only hole in this class is the defensive line. A hole that Riley more than acknowledges.
"Defensively, we still have some ongoing things I can't talk about right now," Riley said. "Defensive line is the one area at this point where we are thin in our recruiting class."
It was not for a lack of knowing who they were or effort. It came down, and those guys were like gold, and it was very competitive."
Expect the Beavers to ink several more players in the upcoming weeks. The deadline for signatures is April.
Riley on the 2005 class and meeting
his recruiting goals:
"We're obviously excited about this group that has signed with us. We set many specific goals and a lot of goals were by position. I would say that if you look offensively, at the O-Line, we did just about exactly what we wanted to do. We signed a tight end. We signed a couple of running backs. We wanted one high school receiver and we got him. Of course, our two quarterbacks, one mid-year guy in Matt Moore and Sean Canfield, who may graduate early and be up here for spring practice. So that's very positive."
On adding the cornerbacks and linebackers:
"The corners are outstanding for us. We feel great about what we did there, particularly with where we were at the end of the year, losing Brandon (Browner) and Aric (Williams). This will boost our corps there for sure. Linebackers, we hit the mark exactly where we wanted."
On Miller and McCullough:
"We brought in Edorian McCullough and Aaron Miller as junior college corners to get in here and compete right away. Those are two outstanding athletes."
On the running game:
"We have a young man here that will add to the picture in J.T. Walker, who has been on campus but was not eligible last year because of the transfer rule. We added Nate Wright, who's an exciting athlete from Fresno City. Markel Devorce is a very, very good freshman. We had him rated right near the top of our list of all the running backs around. We're excited about him and what he can bring."
On true freshman playing:
"As far as true freshmen, that will all play out in fall camp. We'll let it all play out and see where they fit in physically and mentally when we come to fall camp."
On Marks and Brinker:
"Michael Marks is a very interesting story. We earmarked him early last year. He's playing eight-man football over in Joseph. He travels 50 miles a day to get to school. Lo and behold, out there in the wilderness somewhere, there's a 300-pound, 6-5 kid that we really liked. He's a heck of a guy who has a bright future. He's athletic and strong. Ian Brinker is a guy we really liked on tape. We're looking for guys who can develop and be what we need them to be. Ian fits very well into that picture."
On Canfield being ready for spring practice:
"If Sean makes it up here in the spring, he will enter the competition and we'll see exactly where he is. We wouldn't make a decision on redshirting until fall camp. That would give him a great jump on what we're doing."
On in-state recruiting:
"I think we did great in-state ... We had Michael Marks, Bryant Cornell and Kevin Maher, and that's about where we wanted to hit. There are obviously other good players in the state, guys that will do well, but those are the guys that we really liked."
On the junior college transfers:
"I will feel good this spring and fall with guys who have played junior college football, along with the guys who have developed in the program, because we've got some big shoes to fill at the position. We have addressed that as well as we could have."