Celebrated running back commits to Oregon State
Patrick Fuller gets rave reviews from his high school coach
Patrick Fuller says he received scholarship offers from eight Pac-10 schools Ñ every team but California and Stanford Ñ along with Nebraska and a host of other colleges.
His coach at Charter Oaks High in Covina, Calif., says he hasn't had a better running back in 35 years in the profession.
But the 6-1, 200-pound Fuller says Oregon State won him over early in the recruiting process, and after a visit to Corvallis a few weeks ago, he was hooked.
'My main interest was Oregon State right from the start, and I just liked the atmosphere up there when I visited,' says Fuller, one of the jewels of OSU's 27-player recruiting class. 'I liked the coaching staff and the people up there. It's comfortable. I got shown around by (cornerback) Brandon Browner, and he was real cool.
'(Secondary) Coach (Nigel) Burton recruited me, and as soon as I talked to him, we clicked. You get that vibe when you hit it off with somebody. He is someone I can trust. He has my back, and we are going to have some good times up there the next few years.'
Charter Oaks Coach Lou Farrar bubbles in praise of Fuller, who led his team to the playoffs and was named the Miramonte League's offensive player of the year. Fuller topped off a season in which he rushed for 2,037 yards and 24 touchdowns by carrying 35 times for 237 yards and two scores in a playoff loss to Mayfair, which reached the state semifinals.
'Patrick transferred to our school as a junior and didn't start until a few games into that season,' Farrar says. 'Once we let him on the field, we couldn't get him off it. After 35 years of watching kids carry the ball for me Ñ and I have had some good ones Ñ he is as good as anyone we have ever had. When you talk about running backs with his height, weight and quickness, there are only three or four players in the country in that class.
'You should see his highlight tape. It's the best one we have ever put together. It is worth the price of admission.'
Fuller is a three-sport star who says he has always considered basketball his best sport. A starting shooting guard, he averaged 18 points as a junior and is averaging 12.2 points and 7.2 assists this season. 'I'm spreading the ball around a lot more,' he says, chuckling.
Farrar is also the school's track coach and reckons Fuller will run 'somewhere in the mid-10s' in the 100 this spring.
'Patrick is going to be a big-time college player,' Farrar says. 'I know where he was when we got him, and how much coaching he has soaked up in the time he has been with us. We run the same single-back offense Oregon State does.
'But the best thing I can say about him is, he is a great kid. We have spent a lot of time getting to know each other the past two years, and he is so captivating as a human being. All smiles and hugs. It has been good for a man my age to run into a kid like this, so lovable and good.'
Fuller says the success of recent tailbacks Ken Simonton and Steven Jackson influenced his decision to attend OSU.
'I hope I can have a great career up there,' he says. 'I am not looking to redshirt, but if I do, that's fine. I know they have good backs up there already. But they are going to need a No. 1 back, and I feel I can be that guy.
'I can bounce it outside or go straight inside and I can catch the ball. And I don't mind a fullback in front of me, if that's what they want. I know they recruited a kid from Portland (Jesuit's Mike Jones) who fits that, and that's great.'
Fuller has to get academically eligible first. His grades are OK, but his SAT score was only 720.
'I have signed up for an SAT class, and I am going to take the test again after that,' he says. 'I am sure I am going to make it.'
QB 'has it all'
The top quarterback signee, -6-2, 190-pound Brian Hildebrand from Corona (Calif.) High, threw for 1,710 yards and 12 TDs with seven interceptions as a senior. A nifty runner, Hildebrand rushed for 683 yards and nine TDs for a 6.2 yards per carry average this fall, breaking one for 90 yards in Corona's speed option attack.
'Definitely the best quarterback I have coached,' says Corona coach John Brandom, whose team finished 8-4 and lost in the second round of the playoffs to eventual state champion John W. North High. 'He has been a starter since he was a freshman, and I am a coach who has never even started a sophomore quarterback before.
'Brian has it all. I don't want to say he is too good to be true, but he is about as close as you can get. He is only 6-2, which is not much of a flaw to me. He is very knowledgeable, a hardworking kid who is determined to be the best. The thing that sets him apart are the intangibles: leadership ability, self-confidence, poise and work ethic.
'His passing numbers would have been better, but we ran the ball a lot this year, and his ability to run made a huge difference for us. In our big wins, he put us on his back and carried us.'
Hildebrand had scholarship offers from Colorado and Colorado State and canceled a visit to UCLA in January because 'it wasn't the place for me.' He had already decided on OSU, thanks in no small part to assistant coach Lee Hull, who recruited him.
'He is an awesome guy, and Coach (Mike) Riley is perfect for a quarterback,' Hildebrand says. 'I love their offense. It is so balanced and uses the running back so well. And Corvallis seems like the perfect place to go to school. I really loved it on my visit.'
Hildebrand says he has been a Beaver fan 'since watching the Fiesta Bowl team that beat up on Notre Dame (in 2001).'
'I remember being in awe of the athletes they had and the attitude they played with,' he says. 'One thing I admired about Oregon State when I watched them play last year is those guys play mean. I like that a lot. I like to get down and dirty. Well, as a quarterback, I might not be able to do that as much in college, but that's the kind of player I am.'
Riley says his two biggest 'gets' might be Alan Darlin, a SuperPrep All-America linebacker from Elk Grove, Calif., and Bryan Payton, a cornerback from West Covina, Calif., who originally committed to UCLA. É 'Alan is the best pure football player I have coached in my 21 years, and that includes (ex-Duck) Onterrio Smith,' says Darlin's coach, Lou Lassetter. Says Riley: 'Alan is a born middle linebacker. I hate to make a comparison with a young kid, but he could be the next Richard Seigler. Alan might wind up being a four-year starter.' É Payton, whose twin brother, Jeremy, signed with Arizona State, is 6-1, 185 and runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds. He lived in Beaverton from ages 7 to 8, and his grandmother lives in Medford. 'I like Oregon, and I like the small-town atmosphere,' he says. 'I'm not trying to be conceited, but I think a lot of schools are going to wish they recruited me harder than they did. I'm going to learn stuff from Brandon Browner and Aric Williams, and then watch out.' Says his coach, Steve Brogan: 'Oregon State got one of the best DBs in the nation. He is quick like a 5-10 kid and has great hips.'
Coveted Hawaiian offensive tackle Jeremy Perry, who was expected to sign with Arizona, chose not to sign with anybody. He is considering Arizona, OSU and Hawaii É QB Michael Perri, a teammate of Fuller's at Charter Oaks, did not sign but is expected to enroll at OSU for winter term 2005. É Several of OSU's signees are not yet academically eligible. Riley says he is concerned about only two of them, but would not identify which two.
Mike Jones and prep teammate Zach Tarver, the only in-state recruits by the Beavers, say they had a buddy plan in mind. 'We have been going to school together since third grade,' Tarver says. 'We decided to stick together, and Oregon State was a good fit for us.' Jones visited Oregon but says the coaching staff there 'seemed really impersonal with the players and more concerned with, 'Hey, look at our stadium and what we have in our locker room. This is why you should come here.' They didn't extend the hospitality. I saw that at Oregon State when I talked with Mike Riley and his staff.' É A third Jesuit player, Slade Norris, will walk on with the promise of a scholarship his third year in school. Ditto for Bend tailback Matt Sieverson, the state's offensive player of the year.
Riley says all six linebackers who signed Wednesday will begin summer camp at that position, including 6-1, 250-pound prep star Will Price of Anaheim, Calif., who originally committed to UCLA. É Riley is excited about 6-6, 275-pound offensive tackle Tavita Thompson, who turned down Colorado for OSU. 'A tremendous athlete,' the coach says. É Another Hawaiian, Tavita Finao, says he will sign with the Beavers. He is a 6-5, 230-pound tight end regarded as the best prep athlete on the islands. É Riley says JC recruit Sam Paulescu will punt and kick off next fall and compete for the place-kicking job. Paulescu, a first-team JC All-America punter with a 46.5-yard average, made 12 of 17 field goals, including a 57-yarder.