After a brief drought, Mike Riley signed linebacker Keith Ellison in 2004. Ellison earned All-Pac-10 first team honors as a senior in 2005 after ranking third in the Pac-10 in tackles per game. His 25.5 tackles for loss ranks ninth all-time at OSU.
Last year the Beavers recruited several prospects from ElCo, including running back Jamicah Bass, who was a one time verbal to OSU before switching to Iowa State, and wide receiver Kayne Farquharson, who verbaled to Miami. Riley and staff did happen to wrestle quarterback Lyle Moevao away from Nebraska.
This year the pipeline remains strong as the Beavers have received verbals from two of El Camino’s finest in running back Jeremy Francis and offensive lineman Brent McNeil. El Camino head coach John Featherstone says he loves sending players to OSU adding that the Beavs have two “gems.”
"We have been sending players to OSU for some time now,” said El Camino head coach John Featherstone. “Riles (Coach Mike Riley) and I have a great relationship and I really feel like I can shot straight with him.”
“We really like sending players to the Beavers, and Riley is getting two real gems with Brent McNeil and Jeremy Francis."
Running back Jeremy Francis (6-1, 210) is from Florida, and originally signed with Wake Forest out of high school, but opted to play a couple seasons at the Junior college level. In addition to his offer from Wake Forest, he had offers from a few other ACC schools.
Francis is a dynamic, physical running back whose flexibility should lead him to early playing time at Oregon State. He carried the ball 31 carries for 113 yards and four touchdowns last year while adding 22 receptions for 252 yards and three touchdowns on the receiving end.
"I can't say enough about Jeremy Francis," Featherstone said. "He is a great running back and a tremendous receiver. I think he caught about thirty balls for us last season. He can play tailback, fullback, or H-back, in fact Riles was telling me that he thinks he can make an immediate impact at H-back."
Coach Featherstone went on to describe Francis' game. "He is a tough, physical runner, with tremendous hands. His one weakness is his top speed. He is probably a 4.6, 4.65 type of guy, but for a big guy he runs with ease, and makes guys miss."
Featherstone also complemented Francis on his work ethic both on and off the field, describing him as a great student, and a hard worker in the weight room.
With Yvenson Bernard and Clinton Polk both graduating after the 2007 season and two inexperienced freshman coming in (Ahmed Mokhtar and Ryan McCants) Francis’ experience and dynamic playing abilities are needed. He will definitely compete for the starting job at running back, and should fit in well with the offense.
Offensive lineman Brent McNeil (6-3, 295) is the nephew of the great UCLA running back Freeman McNeil, but unlike his relative he won't be carrying the ball for the Orange and Black. McNeil is a versatile lineman, who is more suited to play guard, but could play tackle if necessary.
McNeil is not a real tall lineman at 6 foot 3, but is described by coach Featherstone as a guy with "great feet and a great technician."
"He is a tough kid, very smart and he plays every play hard,” Featherstone said. “I would feel comfortable putting him at tackle, guard or center."
Just like Francis, Featherstone complemented McNeil on his character and work ethic, describing him as a strong student, and a fun guy to be around. McNeil played in all fourteen games at tackle and guard for El Camino in 2006 helping the Warriors to a 12-2 record and their first California Community Colleges Commission on Athletics football championship since 1971.
Only two offensive lineman, right guard Roy Schuening and center Kyle DeVan, graduate at the end of the year. But with McNeil’s skill and experience at the junior college level, he should add good depth to the line and compete for a starting position in '08.
The two early commitments for Oregon State from El Camino College should be great fits for the Beaver program. Both have three to play two with Francis set to graduate in December of 2007 and McNeil in May of 2008.
With their experience, skill and character, McNeil and Francis will likely be key pieces of the OSU program for the future, and help Oregon State compete for a Pac-10 title.