Coach Erickson's job is clear: Reverse last season's dismal record

CORVALLIS Ñ Dennis Erickson isn't used to losing, and he doesn't want anyone around him to get used to it, either.

That is why there will be an added dose of intensity at Oregon State's football spring practice, which begins Thursday in Corvallis.

Everyone associated with Beaver football intends to prove that last season's 5-6 record Ñ after back-to-back winning campaigns Ñ is an aberration. In 16 years as a head college coach, Erickson has had only two losing seasons (the other was in 1987, when Washington State went 3-7-1). He doesn't intend to do it again any time soon.

'It is going to be a vicious, hard-hitting spring,' says Erickson, who begins his fourth season at OSU next fall. 'I don't like being 5-6, and neither do the players. We always hit in the spring, but there is going to be a little more of it than usual. This will be the most important spring since I have been here.'

Oregon State returns 17 starters, along with prize skill-position sophomores-to-be Derek Anderson and Steve Jackson.

The 6-1, 225-pound Jackson, so impressive the second half of last season, will be the Beavers' workhorse at tailback in place of the departed Ken Simonton.

Anderson, the 6-6, 235-pound Scappoose High School graduate whom Erickson called the best high school QB prospect he has ever seen, is expected to take over for graduated four-year starter Jonathan Smith at quarterback.

Anderson has trimmed 10 pounds over the winter and is 'stronger, faster and more mobile' than he was last season, Erickson says.

'It is an important learning period for Derek,' Erickson says. 'There are a lot of things he has to improve on as far as understanding the offense and our philosophy.'

With Florida State transfer Jared Jones passing up a chance to play next fall, the backup role will go to Shayne House, the 6-5, 225-pound junior from Sacramento who has missed the last two seasons with shoulder problems.

'Shayne seems to be better,' Erickson says. 'I don't know if he will be 100 percent, but he is getting closer. He is real athletic. I just want to see how he is throwing the ball.'

Other areas of emphasis this spring:

• Finding a backup for Jackson at running back. The leading candidate is 5-8, 195-pound Dwight Wright, a sophomore from Pomona, Calif., built along the lines of Simonton. Another contender, redshirt freshman Josh Farrell (5-9, 200), will miss spring ball after knee surgery. 'Steve is going to be a great player; Dwight has a chance to be a really good player,' Erickson says. 'We need to find somebody to help Steve out.'

• Finding a safety to replace Jake Cookus. Holdovers Calvin Carlyle and Shamon Jamerson will battle JC transfers Lawrence Turner and Brandon Catenese for the starting job.

• Growth at receiver. Junior James Newsom is one of the best returnees in the Pac-10, but Erickson wants improvement from the rest of the holdovers, who include seniors Shawn Kintner and Seth Trimmer, junior Kenny Farley and sophomores Cole Clasen, George Gillett and Josh Hawkins.

• Replacing offensive line stalwarts Chris Gibson (center) and Vincent Sandoval (tackle). Matt Brock, a 6-2, 295-pound sophomore, will take over for Gibson while Isaac Aronson, a 6-7, 320-pound senior transfer from Cal State Northridge, and sophomore Doug Nienhuis (6-6, 290) will battle for the open starting tackle slot.

NOTES: The Beavers will have 15 practices, ending with the April 27 spring game at Reser Stadium. Scrimmages will be held April 13 and 20. É Farrell, Carlyle (shoulder) and tight end Tim Euhus (knee) will miss spring drills. É Erickson's sleeper pick for the spring: Jayson Boyd, a 6-3, 200-pound redshirt freshman receiver from Riverside, Calif. 'He is tall, fast and can catch the ball,' Erickson says. 'He is a pretty talented kid who might surprise a few people.' É Smith will serve as OSU's offensive graduate assistant coach next season.

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