Beaver training camp is abuzz over emergence of Portland's Mike Hass
CORVALLIS Ñ For two seasons, Mike Hass was a nobody on the Oregon State football team. Suddenly, as the Beavers approach their Aug. 28 opener against Sacramento State, he is a very important somebody.
'I feel pretty good right now,' the sophomore wide receiver says, as well he should.
Hass (pronounced Hoss, with a soft O) has been the talk of training camp.
'Mike has been outstanding from Day One of camp,' OSU coach Mike Riley says. 'It's unbelievable how many balls he has caught since camp started. All the players recognize it, too. They're appreciative of the plays he is making. The bright spot of camp has been the way Michael has come in here and lifted that position way up.'
Hass is listed as the backup to split end James Newson, the talented senior who is poised to break the record for school career receptions this season. Newson has taken Hass under his wing and notices marked improvement.
'Last night I walked into Mike's room and said, 'Man, keep up the good work, because good things are going to happen for you,' ' Newson says. 'He is going up and catching the ball. He is making things happen. He is outplaying a lot of people in camp. He has already made a big impact.'
Hass' emergence is important because depth in the receiving corps is a problem. Jayson Boyd and Travis Brown flunked out of school, and junior Cole Clasen's academic situation isn't resolved, so he has missed a number of practices. That leaves Newson, senior Kenny Farley, junior George Gillett and and sophomore Josh Hawkins as veterans capable of filling the three receiver spots.
A player times 3
Hass probably will wind up getting playing time at slotback and flanker, too.
'I told the other coaches in a staff meeting the other day, just because he has played the X (split end) position so far, doesn't mean he couldn't be a flanker or a slot,' Riley says. 'We will find a way to get him on the field.'
It's a direct departure from Hass' first two years in Corvallis. As a freshman walk-on, Hass redshirted, serving on the offensive scout squad. Last year, he was a regular on the special teams and saw some action late in the season at split end, but he didn't get a pass thrown to him.
Hass had to swallow some pride after a great prep career at Jesuit, where he caught 79 passes for 1,739 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior, averaging 22 yards a catch and earning state offensive player of the year honors. In a quarterfinal victory over Central Catholic, he scored seven touchdowns.
Yet college recruiters didn't pound on his door. Maybe it was because his size (6-1 and 190 pounds) and speed (4.6) weren't off the charts. 'I got some offers at smaller schools like Montana, but from nobody in the Pac-10,' Hass says. 'I was a little disappointed.'
Hass took inventory of his situation with his parents, Rick and Bobbi. He wanted to major in engineering, a strong suit at Oregon State. After meeting with then-coach Dennis Erickson, 'I liked him a lot, and he offered me the opportunity to walk on,' Hass says. 'My parents were mostly concerned about academics, so they were very supportive. I decided to go for it.'
'Anything to get on field'
Hass says he grew convinced during his freshman year he would be able to play at OSU eventually. He was impressive in camp, 'and before the season, (then-receivers coach) Eric Yarber told me, 'You are going to be one of our players,' ' Hass says. 'But I was behind a lot of guys on the depth chart.'
Then came the coaching change, 'and I was a little discouraged, actually,' Hass says. 'Now I was going to have to prove myself to a new set of coaches. But it has kind of worked out perfectly.'
After spring drills, Hass sought out Riley to tell him he was willing to do special teams again Ñ 'anything to get on the field,' Hass says.
'You are a good player and you had a good spring,' Riley told Hass.
'Yeah, but I didn't play as well as I can,' Hass said.
'Well, that will drive you into getting ready for the fall,' Riley told him.
Hass, now weighing a solid 210, has caught everyone's eyes with his good hands in camp.
'It's always been a strong point of mine,' he says. 'And maybe I surprise some guys with my speed. A lot of guys look at me and say, 'How did you do that?' That's kind of the fun part about it.'
Hass is in position to get playing time, whether it is at split end, slotback or flanker. Or all three.
'It's not my decision,' he shrugs. 'I have to keep doing what I am doing. I just want to catch some balls, make things happen and get on the field as much as possible.'
Notes: Newson and star tailback Steven Jackson didn't play in Tuesday's scrimmage, and don't expect to see them in the Beavers' two remaining scrimmage sessions, including one Saturday. 'I think I know what those guys can do,' Riley says. 'There is never a guarantee, but I want those guys to get to the first game healthy.'
Walk-on receiver Brandon Robinson from Lake Oswego caught several passes in Tuesday's scrimmage. 'Brandon has been a pleasant surprise,' Riley says. (Lake Oswego coach) Steve Coury told us he would do a good job for us.' É Gillett and Hawkins are running neck and neck at flanker. 'I can't separate them, and I don't need to right now,' Riley says. 'Both will play.'
Cornerback Aric Williams has been as good as anybody on the defense. 'Aric has stepped up and been really sound out there, playing the deep and short balls and being smart,' Riley says. 'He has a real good feel for that position.'
The Beavers will use Trent Bray, a sophomore reserve linebacker, as lead blocker out of the I-formation in front of Jackson on goal-line and short-yardage situations.