Coach Riley looks forward to adding linebacker to the mix

El Camino (Calif.) College coach John Featherstone has sent DeLawrence Grant, LaDairis Jackson and Tevita Moala to Oregon State Ñ the first two to the NFL, as well. His latest prodigy to don orange and black, Keith Ellison, fits right in.

'Keith is every bit as good as those players, if not better,' Featherstone says of Ellison, who will be among the players on hand when OSU opens spring football practice Saturday. 'He will come in and be another great Beaver.'

Ellison was a second-team JC All-American as a strong safety in his first season at El Camino last fall after transferring from San Diego State, where he was a part-time starter as a true freshman in 2002.

The 6-2, 225-pound Ellison had 119 tackles and six interceptions on an El Camino team that finished 8-3 and won its bowl game. He was named Mission Conference defensive player of the week five times.

Featherstone coached Ellison's older brother, Chris, who was a co-captain and safety at Brigham Young in the late '90s.

'Keith has all the intangibles, just like Chris did,' Featherstone says. 'He doesn't have great speed, but he is an instinctive player. He runs a 4.7 (in the 40-yard dash) and has great football sense, is always around the football. From the first day of practice, he stepped right in and earned the respect of all his teammates. He lives in the weight room, is a very physical player, a great tackler.'

Together again

Ellison was recruited to San Diego State by Charlie Camp, who became his position coach. Now the two will reunite in Corvallis. Camp is in his second year coaching linebackers at OSU, and Ellison is projected to play outside linebacker for the Beavers.

'We needed a guy with some experience, an impact guy, at linebacker, and we hope he is our guy,' Camp says. 'He is a smart player who has all the ability to be great.'

Ellison arrived in Corvallis on Sunday in time to enroll in summer school, get his housing figured out and prepare for Saturday's opening day of spring ball.

'I am very excited,' says Ellison, who worked during the winter in Inglewood, Calif., for an armored car service that moves money. 'I have been working out, running, in the weight room, doing agility drills. I feel I am in very good shape.'

Ellison's host during his recruiting visit to Oregon State was middle linebacker Richard Seigler.

'Great guy,' Ellison says. 'He helped sell me on the place. So did the other players. They have such a passion for Oregon State. And it seems like the program is on the way up. It was something I wanted to be part of.

'I liked the town, too. Everywhere I went, businesses had 'Go Beavers' in the windows. Corvallis is going to be a little different than what I'm used to, but I'm looking forward to getting up there and being a part of the Beavers. I want us to keep getting to bowl games, too Ñ hopefully the Rose Bowl.'

No sitting

With Trent Bray and Jonathan Pollard locked into starting jobs at middle and weak linebacker, Ellison will likely get a shot at challenging returnee Chaz Scott at the strong linebacker position.

'Our outside linebackers need safety-type skills Ñ speed and movement combined with size and strength,' OSU head coach Mike Riley says. 'Keith fits the mold. He is an active player with some excellent talent. We wouldn't have brought him in if we didn't think he would at least compete for a starting position.

'And if he doesn't start, he will play football for us. There is plenty of football for four or five linebackers in our system.'

Sounds good to Ellison.

'It doesn't matter who I have to go up against,' he says. 'I am just looking forward to competing with somebody. They tell me they're looking for me to challenge for playing time right away. No sitting. That is my goal.'

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