Sophomore linebacker has tools needed to fill need for Beavers
CORVALLIS - Malcolm Agnew took a handoff and veered through the line during Tuesday's scrimmage session at Reser Stadium.
Suddenly, Oregon State's freshman tailback was rudely interrupted with a jarring tackle by linebacker Michael Doctor.
Agnew's helmet went flying - thankfully, it wasn't his head - but he gamely hung on to the ball.
'That was a D-I football play, right there,' said Agnew, displaying a cut forehead from the collision afterward. 'My gosh, he's a great athlete. It was a good play by him.
'Hey, a little blood don't hurt. I'm all right.'
Could be a portent of things to come for Doctor, the sophomore outside linebacker who will make his first career start in OSU's opener Sept. 3 against Sacramento State at Reser Stadium.
The 5-11, 220-pound Tulsa, Okla., native has everyone in the program excited about the possibilities.
'Mike's not a player with potential - he's a player,' says senior Cameron Collins, expected to start adjacent to Doctor on the outside. 'Every time he is on the field, he is making a play or really close to making a play.
'There's no substitute for speed and instincts like he has. That's a lethal combination. He is going to be an amazing linebacker. I'm excited to have the opportunity to play with him.'
Doctor reminds of Derrick Doggett, a standout linebacker for the Beavers from 2004-07.
'It's a valid comparison, athletically,' OSU coach Mike Riley says. 'They're both undersized a little bit, and for what they do and how they compensate, they are similar type players.
'Michael is a playmaker. He can run, and he's fearless. The more of a grasp he gets for what we do, the better player he'll become.'
Collins redshirted as a freshman during Doggett's senior season.
'He was an unbelievable player,' Collins says, 'and Mike has some of his skills.'
Doctor was a two-way standout at Booker T. Washington High, making 130 tackles as a 190-pound senior safety and rushing for 1,299 yards while scoring a state-best 28 touchdowns in leading his team to the state 5A championship.
Doctor had scholarship offers from such schools as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tennessee and UCLA but canceled all visits after taking his first trip to Corvallis the summer before his senior season.
The Beavers 'were in the Pac-10, a good conference,' Doctor says. 'Plus, I wanted to get away from home.
'Once I came here, I knew it was the place for me. Everybody made it feel like it was a family environment. It felt like home.'
OSU coaches immediately projected Doctor - who runs a 4.47 40 - as a prototypical outside 'backer.
'He was a perfect fit as the kind of athlete we need on our defense,' Riley says. 'I thought he might be the only linebacker in the country to return kickoffs. We had him practice that a year ago, but we've gone past that now.'
Last season, Doctor was a regular on the Beavers' punt, kickoff and kickoff return units and got in every game as a reserve linebacker. The idea of allowing him to redshirt his first year with the program passed quickly.
'Players like Michael are so hard to find - so versatile and useful for special teams,' Riley says. 'That's where linebackers usually make their first impact. It became clear we needed to play him.'
With the departure of 2011 seniors Keith Pankey and Dwight Roberson, Doctor was ticketed for starting duty this season. Is he ready?
'Definitely,' senior safety Lance Mitchell says. 'He's a student of the game. He's picking up stuff quickly. He's going to learn as he goes. He'll do a fine job.'
'Yes, sir,' Doctor says, answering the same question. 'I wouldn't be in there if I wasn't ready.
'It's an honor to start, especially here. When I came in, Oregon State was known as 'Linebacker U.' We want to bring back that tradition.'
Defensive coordinator Mark Banker - who also coaches the linebackers - says it has been a pleasure working with Doctor.
'You don't have to piece everything together with him,' Banker says. 'He can go from A to C. We've been really working with him on technique. We still have a ways to go, but he's improved.
'He's pretty laid back, but at the same time, he has a very competitive spirit about him. He is attentive. He listens. He tries to make corrections.'
Doctor grew up in a single-parent family, the oldest of six children of LaTasha Anderson, a home day-care provider.
'There were times when it was hard to get by, but we fought through it,' Doctor says. 'Mom needed some help with the kids, and I had a desire to help out, to chip in.'
Doctor is majoring in human development at Oregon State, in part because of his mother's occupation.
'It's one of the reasons why I've looked at social work as a career,' he says. 'I want to be able to help kids at risk.
'I want to play in the NFL some day, but if it doesn't work, I'll have my degree. That's why education is a key.'
Pundits have Oregon State pegged as an also-ran in the Pac-12 North Division this season. That's OK with Doctor.
'I want them to write us off,' he says. 'I want Beaver Nation to sneak up on everybody. It's going to happen, most definitely.'