Promising freshman running back built like ex-Beaver star
CORVALLIS - Looks like Quizz. Built like Quizz. Even moves a little like Quizz.
But, no, the tailback wearing No. 28 in Oregon State's backfield isn't Jacquizz Rodgers.
And Terron (pronounced 'Te-RON') Ward isn't suggesting for a minute he is the second coming of OSU's latest great running back, now a rookie for the Atlanta Falcons.
'Quizz showed the world, and he hasn't let down yet,' says Ward, one of the many cast of characters who will be trying to win the job as Rodgers' successor when the Beavers open training camp on Monday.
'But I just want to help the team,' Ward says. 'If it's as a second- or third-down guy, special teams … I just want to find my niche. Whatever I can do to help my team, I'll be happy with that.'
The 5-7, 190-pound true freshman from fabled De La Salle High in Concord, Calif., is one of seven players in competition for the starting tailback job. He is intriguing because of his similarities with Rodgers, who became a perfect fit in Mike Riley's pro-style, single-back offense almost from the day he set foot on the OSU campus.
It has not been such a Cinderella story as of yet for Ward, who came to Oregon State as a grayshirt in January after graduating from De La Salle the previous spring.
Ward's progress was hindered midway through spring drills, when he suffered a lateral meniscus tear to his left knee. He had surgery in early May.
'I first noticed it during a scrimmage,' says Ward, who had never experienced knee problems before. 'I caught a screen pass and was running up the sidelines. When I went to cut back, it gave out on me some.
'A week and a half later, I took a pitchout, made a similar cut and felt it even more.'
Ward, who has spent most of the summer in Corvallis training with teammates, says he received clearance from doctors three weeks ago for full activity.
The knee 'is not a problem,' Ward says. 'It's sore here and there, but I should be ready for the start of camp. I wouldn't say it's 100 percent, but close enough to where I have my abilities.'
Will Ward be limited in what he can do early in training camp?
'I'm not sure,' he says. 'I've been doing pretty much everything (the past month), but I'll see how I feel. If I think I can go all-out from the get-go, I'll do it. If I need to go slow, I'll do it.'
Ward says he doesn't feel pressure to make an early impression.
'I think I showed the coaches the majority of my skill level in the two to three weeks I was in spring ball,' he says.
The 2009 East Bay player of the year, Ward rushed for 2,050 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior while leading De La Salle to the CIF North Coast championship. It's the school that won 151 straight games from 1992-2004 and has reigned as California's mythical big-school state champion the past two years.
Ward set a school record by rushing for 398 yards in one game as a senior. He rushed for 161 yards in the title game and was also a first-team all-area cornerback.
After all of that, Ward had one scholarship offer - from Oregon State. And it came late in the game, with the stipulation he would grayshirt. The Beavers came upon Ward after successfully recruiting his prep teammate, defensive end Dylan Wynn.
Why so little interest?
'I can't tell you,' Ward says. 'We were one of the best programs in the nation. I had pretty good stats. We won the championship.
'I guess I'm underrated, at least in the eyes of the college coaches. A lot of schools didn't see me as the guy who could do it at that next level. Fortunately, Oregon State did, and I ran with it.'
Ward has speed - he says he ran a '4.4 something' in the 40-yard dash as a sophomore at De La Salle and 10.7 seconds in the 100 meters as a senior - and OSU coaches say his deportment is good.
'I guess it must be my height,' Ward says. 'Not something I can control.'
Ward's blood lines are a major plus. His father, Terrell, played briefly as a cornerback with the Philadelphia Eagles. His older brother, T.J., is a former Oregon standout in his second season as a safety with the Cleveland Browns.
'I know the game of football,' Terron Ward says. 'I've been around it my whole life. I have talent, but I feel like it's the intangibles that make my game special.'
There are some tangibles, too, to Ward's repertoire as a back. He seems more quick than fast, as was Rodgers. OSU coaches say he is a good blocker and capable receiver.
'Blocking is not being afraid of the person in front of you,' Ward says. 'You have to have a little chip on your shoulder. Catching the ball is not being afraid to get hit after you catch it. I can do both of those pretty well.'
T.J. Ward didn't bat an eye when his brother signed with his college's arch-rival.
'He didn't have any bad things to say,' Terron says. 'He was happy for me. He said, 'This is your opportunity to get a free education and play Division I football. Make something of it.'
'Maybe there will be a little trash-talking when I start playing, but for now, he just wants the best for me.'
Ward says he enjoyed his time in Corvallis this summer, taking two summer-school classes (music and biology) and bonding with teammates.
'It was a totally good experience,' he says. 'We have a lot of talented guys on this team. For spring ball, you're around them a lot, but you still have school, kids in your dorm and so on. This summer, it was pretty much me and my teammates, and it was a great way to connect with them.'
Next Monday, the battle for the tailback job is on. Ward is making no predictions.
'That's up to the coaches,' he says. 'I have full confidence in my capabilities, but they make the decision on who they put on the field.'