Portland State lands 23 of the 38 players on its wish list

Oregon State has its best in-state recruiting class in recent memory, and for the first time in many years, the Beavers appear to have beaten Oregon in-state.

OSU signed five state-of-Oregon players to letters of intent on Wednesday ÑÊincluding prize quarterback Ryan Gunderson of Central Catholic, Lake Oswego tight end/defensive end Keith Robertson and Pendleton offensive lineman Roy Schuening.

'I don't know who the Ducks recruited,' OSU football coach Dennis Erickson says. 'I know they offered (scholarships) to Schuening and Robertson. Maybe they didn't want the other kids we signed. All I know is, we wanted them. We felt there were five players in the state who could play at the Pac-10 level, and we got all five of them.'

A look at how recruiting went for OSU, Oregon and Portland State:

Beavers like QB's polish

A week ago, Erickson confided that this probably was his best recruiting class since arriving in Corvallis. This week, he backed away from that a little.

'It's very similar to our last two,' he says, 'which we think were both pretty darn good. It's as good as any we've had here, I think I can say that. It's a well-rounded class that has strengths in a lot of places.'

Erickson was enthralled with Derek Anderson's potential coming out of Scappoose, and he is a smidgen higher on Gunderson, who turned down Tennessee orange for OSU's deeper-colored version.

'They both came out of great systems, but Ryan might be coming in a little more polished,' Erickson says. 'The 4A competition, compared with what Derek faced (at 3A), makes a difference.'

The Beavers also landed Lake Oswego linebacker Andy Darkins and Lebanon tight end/linebacker Zach Hagemeister as part of their 20 prep signings.

Erickson is excited about a pair of California tailbacks, Charles Burnley of Valencia and Lorenzo Bursey of Long Beach. Erickson on Bursey: 'He can flat-out fly. He could play cornerback, tailback or slotback for us.'

The coach also likes defensive end Jeff Van Orsow, cornerback Gerard Lawson and tackle Curtis Coker, who all continue the Las Vegas pipeline that began with Richard Seigler and continued with Steven Jackson.

Defensive backs Anthony Wheat of Compton, Calif., and Justin Williams from Los Banos, Calif., also rate highly.

Oregon State signed only one JC player Ñ 6-2, 220-pound linebacker/safety Kevin Davidson. That's a sign of the growth at OSU, where holes will be filled primarily by returning backups and freshman redshirts.

'We are starting to get some depth in here,' Erickson says.

Davidson could play immediately. 'He can really run Ñ he's about a 4.5 (in the 40),' Erickson says.

Danny Southwick, the QB from Provo, Utah, who has been on a church mission the last two years, will enroll this spring.

The Beavers thought they would land 6-4, 320-pound tackle Patrick Wu out of Plano, Texas, but as of Thursday he seemed headed to Navy. The Beavers were expecting to add Danny Kalavi, a 6-5, 210-pound tight end/defensive end from Burbank, Calif.

Two blue-chippers OSU lost: Thomas Huff, a 6-4, 190-pound receiver from Phoenix, who signed with Utah, and Chijoke Onyenegecha, a 6-3, 205-pound cornerback from City College of San Francisco who opted for Arizona State.

Biggest sleeper in the class might be Phil Ghilarducci, a 6-4, 190-pound receiver from Palo Alto, Calif., who had 14 receptions of 30 or more yards as a senior. 'We didn't find out about him until about three weeks ago, and once we saw tape, we immediately offered him a scholarship,' Erickson says.

Ducks shore up defense

Oregon appears to have remedied its cornerback problem, but the coaches had to go to extremes. They stole Ryan Gilliam, a 5-9 cornerback, from his hometown college of Florida State and took a chance on 5-10 cornerback Rodney Woods of Fresno City College, who may or may not attend Oregon.

The Ducks will find out Feb. 28 whether a judge will lessen Woods' conviction in an assault case from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, who added 24 players on Wednesday, expects both corners to play right away, or at least push returnees Steven Moore, Aaron Gipson and Marques Binns. Bellotti adds JC cornerback Marc Walker into the mix, too.

It's highly unusual whenever Oregon gets a guy from the East Coast Ñ former running back Maurice Morris was from South Carolina. The Ducks got Gilliam the old-fashioned way: They saw him on a recruiting list, sent him a letter and kept following up when the player showed interest. Gilliam had said he would attend Florida State, but he told Bellotti three weeks ago that he would join the Ducks.

Last week, Gilliam visited Oregon again, on his own time and with his own money.

'It snowballed,' Bellotti says. 'He fell in love with the place. We don't normally recruit Florida, but there was mutual interest, and we pursued it. É If there are guys where we have positional needs, we'll go across the country.'

The Ducks also signed prep QBs Johnny DuRocher, Brady Leaf and Dennis Dixon, who will be staggered on the depth chart. DuRocher plans to graduate from Bethel High in Spanaway, Wash., in the spring, attend spring drills in Eugene and could be ready to go by the fall. The Ducks are moving Scott Vossmeyer to linebacker/safety and Andy Collins to wide receiver/running back to make room for DuRocher.

Leaf, the brother of Ryan Leaf from Great Falls, Mont., will redshirt. Dixon, the San Leandro, Calif., product who USC dropped and Oregon welcomed with open arms, could 'grayshirt,' meaning he would voluntarily sit out next year. He would enter school in the winter or spring Ñ to pursue a baseball career. He would join the Ducks' football roster, effective in 2004, and probably would redshirt.

If he isn't drafted by a pro team in June, Dixon may play in an adult Portland baseball league, Bellotti says. 'His desire is to pursue both sports,' the UO coach says, noting that former Duck QB Chris Miller pursued pro baseball while playing college football.

JC signee Marcus Miller 'has the size and speed to play anywhere' at linebacker, Bellotti says. Marcus Maxwell, a 6-3 JC receiver, will battle for playing time, although Bellotti hopes that Demetrius Williams and Keith Allen will become prime players.

Bellotti says Jordan Carey, a 5-11 prep from Olympia, 'is a tremendous athlete, very strong, very fast, very powerful. Coming in the spring (with DuRocher) will give him a leg up.'

Bellotti also expects Paul Martinez, a prep punter from Danville, Calif., to replace Jose Arroyo. JC tight end Eddie Whitaker may or may not relieve the sting of losing George Wrighster to the pros.

Oregon offered scholarships to three in-state players but got only one of them. Bellotti preferred to look at the bright side: The Ducks had a commitment from Dayton High's Dante Rosario, an athletic linebacker/safety, all along.

Oregon did not sign a running back, though, which puts emphasis on landing one this year or next.

Viks add offense

Coach Tim Walsh says Portland State got 23 of 38 players on its wish list.

PSU landed three of its five top choices on the defensive line, signing JCs Sione Tuipulotu, Noah Wright and Kevin Keanaaina but missing out on Coby Hazlet, who went to Youngstown State, and Derick Durbin, who opted for San Diego State.

Leading recruits were all-purpose Akbar Jones from College of San Mateo in San Francisco, former OSU and Cal State-Northridge lineman Isaac Aronson (6-7, 315), two kicker-punters, and an offensive lineman and tight end from the JC ranks.

Walsh says the 6-1, 175-pound Jones will make an immediate impact as kick and punt returner and add to the depth at wide receiver.

Walsh hit College of San Mateo hard, plucking offensive lineman Antonio Narcisse from there; Narcisse should step right in, too.

Tight end Tony Curtis of Fresno City College Ñ same JC as Oregon recruit Rodney Woods Ñ also should play right away. Curtis has converted from defensive end.

The PSU offense slipped last year, but Walsh says things will improve with the newcomers joining returning running backs Ryan Fuqua and Joe Rubin.

'We're going to be back to being as good as the nine years prior,' Walsh says. 'We're going to be multiple, throw for 3,000 yards and run for 2,000.'

With Juston Wood gone, the starting quarterback job falls to Joe Wiser, a junior from Tigard. Walsh tried to recruit a QB but likes his depth Ñ he has four quarterbacks on scholarship. 'As far as the second guy, we hope Sawyer Smith from Chehalis (Wash.) can get into the mix,' Walsh says.

Allan Kennett, a fullback from Pasadena Community College, is likely to start next season. Pasadena 'is going to have 14 or 15 Division-1 scholarship players,' Walsh says. 'If you asked them who the best all-around player is, they'd say Allan.'

Eric Azorr, a terrific athlete who played safety at Clackamas High, will compete with JC transfer Matt Langford for kicking and punting duties.

The Vikings also are looking forward to having Jordan Senn, a safety from Beaverton High. 'When we offered, we thought Oregon and Oregon State would offer and we'd lose him,' Walsh says.

Another key recruit could be Condrew Allen, a big cornerback from Granite Bay, Calif. The Vikings also thought that a bigger school would slip in and steal him.

An intriguing prep signing was Steve Hanlin from North Medford. He comes to the Vikings at 6-6 and just over 200 pounds. Needless to say, he'll redshirt and hope to put on 35 pounds. 'He has a frame that can put on the weight, and he can keep the athleticism,' Walsh says.

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