QuarterbacksSmith came to Corvallis as a 5-foot-11 walk-on. But after a red-shirt season, he embarked upon a stellar career, going 24-14 as a starter and throwing for 9,212 yards to break Erik Wilhelm's school record. Smith also threw for an OSU-record 54 touchdowns and provided invaluable lessons in determination to his understudy Derek Anderson.
Anderson (6-6, 230) saw action in six games as a freshman, most of that in pressure situations, as Erickson sought to build for the future. The first-year player received a difficult introduction, completing only 17-of-41 passes for 263 yards. He threw three interceptions and only one touchdown, but his performance during the spring was more promising.
"It's really clear right now. Derek gets better and better the more he plays, you can see he's getting more comfortable all the time," Erickson said. "Derek is just an intelligent person. Playing him last year has made a huge difference in his development. He likes to be around the game. He studies a lot of video, so he understands what's going on around him." Anderson is a premium athlete who came to OSU rated as the No. 3 quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com and No. 2 by SuperPrep. As a high school senior, he became the first athlete in the state of Oregon to be selected player of the year in football and basketball in the 3A classification in the same year.
"Athletically, physically, he's probably as good as I've been around," Erickson told the Portland Oregonian. "Mentally, he's got a lot of things he's got to learn and experience, so we'll wait and see where he's at."
Blue Ribbon AnalysisJust because Oregon State failed to live up to its BCS promise in 2001, it's foolish to anticipate the program slipping back into its pre-Erickson doldrums.
The defense should be the conference's best once more, and the offense is stronger at every position save quarterback-where Anderson's progress will be essential. He has a marvelous upside and the offensive coaches like his smarts. So the wisest thing he can do this season is rely upon the skill people around him.
The non-conference schedule offers virtually no resistance, with Division I-AA Eastern Kentucky, Temple, UNLV and a David Carr-less Fresno State on tap.
And there's a favorable bend to the league schedule as well: under the Pac-10 rotation, the Beavers will miss Washington State (which returns 16 starters from a 10-2 club).
Assuming OSU wins a couple of the close ones it let slip away in 2001, the Beavers look like a safe bet to win 10 or 11 games this fall. And that puts Erickson's crew in the running for the Rose Bowl-or maybe even the BCS berth that Sports Illustrated predicted a year too early.