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Ex-Wildcat setles into orange zone

Jay Locey says bye to Linfield, hello to some old friends, new challenges

CORVALLIS - At 2 p.m. today, it becomes official. Jay Locey steps onto the Tommy Prothro practice field in his orange and white coaching gear as Oregon State begins training camp in preparation for its season opener against Eastern Washington on Aug. 31 at Reser Stadium.

There might be a few butterflies floating inside the stomach of OSU's new assistant head coach, who spent the past 22 years as head coach and defensive coordinator solidifying a Division III powerhouse at Linfield.

'It's a challenge,' says Locey, 51, a Corvallis native and all-Pac-8 safety at Oregon State as a senior in 1976. 'I'm excited. But this is new for me. There's a bit of a learning curve. I'm not as comfortable with my routine as I've been for a lot of years. I have to be on alert. But it's a neat opportunity.'

Locey was raised an Oregon State fan. His grandfather Percy was once the school's athletic director.

'You grow up dreaming about playing for the Beavers,' he says. 'And once I started coaching, I always thought about the possibility of working at Oregon State.'

Instead, Locey became a big part of the Linfield dynasty, joining Ad Rutschman's staff in 1983 as defensive coordinator, succeeding a man named Mike Riley. Small world. Riley, now Oregon State's head coach, was a senior quarterback when Locey was a sophomore linebacker on Corvallis High's state championship team of 1970.

After a decade as head coach, a 2004 national championship and an 84-18 record, Locey could have stayed at Linfield forever. And he might have, except for his relationship with Riley. Theirs is a mutual admiration society. They are both religious, family-oriented men who believe in the same life principles.

Riley basically created a position for Locey, who also will coach tight ends. Riley spoke with former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst about filling the job, but Chryst decided to stay at Wisconsin. Then Riley learned Locey might be interested and contacted his old friend and teammate.

'That was very enticing,' Locey says. 'I loved Linfield and everything about it. But getting the opportunity to coach at Oregon State with a person the quality of Mike Riley … I've gone from one great situation to another.

'It's time for a change - that was the intriguing part of it for me. And the value system of Mike and his coaching staff, the things they believe in, are congruent with mine.'

Teammates will get tossed

For the last six years, Locey was running Riley's offense at Linfield.

'We tweaked it and Mike tweaked his some since we first ran it in 1999, but there are a fair amount of similarities,' Locey says. 'So that part of it won't be new to me at all. We have a lot of the same beliefs in how to move the football.'

Riley wants Locey to help him implement what he calls 'team-building' activities, something Locey stressed in his latter years at Linfield.

'Mike has outlined some team nights totally unrelated to football,' Locey says.

Such as? The players will don helmets and sumo suits and go at it inside a ring at Reser Stadium. Coaches will set out a high-jump standard and have players try to toss teammates over the bar ('problem solving,' Locey says with a grin). Players may pick teams and wage competition on a bowling night.

'It's all to create camaraderie and build relationships,' Locey says. 'We were 24-12 my first four years (as head coach) at Linfield before we put a bigger emphasis on chemistry. We went 60-6 the last six years, and I think it was very much related to that.'

Lessons go back and forth

Riley will lean on Locey's savvy and experience as a head coach.

'Being a head coach as long as he was, Jay has gone through some of the same experiences I go through,' Riley says. 'He has some expertise on it, and I will love hearing his opinion. If he says something, I know it will be well thought out.

'You talk about quality guys. Jay's personality fits in so well here. He has top-notch character, and he's a great coach. He'll be perfect for our staff.'

Though his title is assistant head coach, Locey says he merely wants to fit in and help where needed.

'I don't put myself any higher than the other coaches,' he says. 'I mean, Mark Banker, Danny Langsdorf, Greg Newhouse and all the other guys … there are some great people here. I'm trying to get up to speed on a lot of things. I've been in that seat Mike's in, and when called upon … but there is a lot of good experience on this staff that Mike can call upon as well.'

Locey, wife Susan and their three daughters have sold their house in McMinnville. Last week, they moved into a new home in the Grand Oaks section of southwest Corvallis.

'Things worked out really well,' he says.

With the addition of Locey, Riley feels the same way about his coaching staff.