Dennis Erickson entertained a capacity crowd for about an hour at the DoubleTree Hotel in Portland, OR. He made opening remarks to a standing ovation and then covered topics ranging from signed recruits to the new Special Teams Coach. He concluded with a pledge that received thundering applause.
Most of his speech addressed the 2001 recruiting class that quietly developed into one of the best in Oregon State's history. He also indicated that the Beaver coaching staff isn't finished recruiting.
Erickson informed the Beaver crowd that a new Special Teams Coach was hired today (Feb. 12th), and he would be arriving in Corvallis tomorrow. Noel Mazzone will be joining the Beavers, and Erickson stated that he was previously Auburn's Offensive Coordinator. Before Auburn Mazzone was the offensive coordinator at Mississippi for 4 seasons so the 44 year old coach brings some Southeast Conference knowledge to the Northwest...
Erickson spent most of his lunch-time discussing the recruits. Although his staff took fewer Junior College players this year (6), he rated this group as one of the best the Beavers have seen.
Two players who could see immediate playing time are safties Brandon Catanese and Lawrence Turner. With the graduation of Jake Cookus and uncertainty of Calvin Carlyle's status, the Beavers will have a competitive battle in the secondary.
Another defensive player that could make an impact is Harvey Whiten. Erickson talked about his 10.5 100m speed, and reputation for delivering punishing hits. Prep cornerback Robert Herbert was also singled out as a possible contributor for 2002, but it's all speculation until spring practice.
On the offensive side of the ball Erickson spoke highly of James Finley and Joe Newton. These two players were near the top of their recruiting list, and Erickson admitted that Finley was the most heavily recruited receiver out of California this year. Newton is the state of Oregon's top recruit, and it was a tough battle with the Duck's for his signature.
The offensive line was the area that seemed to receive the most help. Several recruiting battles were won for nearly a half-ton of talent: JC Ronnfeldt, Isaac Aronson, and especially Brandon Lockheart. Lockheart is a Junior College transfer who will compete with Aronson and current Beaver Doug Nienhuis for the opening at right tackle.
Oregon State recruiting may not be complete. It is possible that a quarterback will be added in the future, but details need to wait.
This could help make up for the potential loss of QB Jared Jones. The timing of professional baseball and collegiate football may cause conflict. Nothing is final, but it's possible the senior quarterback will elect not to join the football team this fall.
The crowd had time for questions at the end of the Beaver Huddle, and a concerned fan asked about the heath of coach Eric Yarber. Erickson responded that Coach Yarber would be pleased to hear that Beaver Nation is still worried about him, but also reassured everyone that the Wide Receiver's Coach just received a clean bill of health.
Coach Erickson spoke with integrity, but he also used an exceptional sense of humor and quick wit that kept the crowd captivated. He can still motivate, too. Beaver faithful cheered as Erickson explained how he and his staff would never, ever spend another Christmas at home as long as he's coaching (insinuating that OSU will be playing in Bowl Games in the immediate future). Fans left the hotel feeling like they were taking the field - surging with optimism. As Erickson said, "the Beavers are undefeated going into the spring game".
[Special recognition should be given to Angela Machado for her commitment to the Beaver Huddle and as an outstanding host. If you've never attending the Portland Huddle, we highly recommend the experience.]
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