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by: , THOMPSON

Oregon State's hire of Keith Heyward to replace Nigel Burton and coach cornerbacks was an easy call for head coach Mike Riley and defensive coordinator Mark Banker.

Heyward is a Beaver - a three-year starter at cornerback for Riley and Dennis Erickson from 1998 to 2000 - who impressed OSU coaches with his work as a graduate assistant in 2005 and '06. He coached linebackers at Division I-AA Cal Poly last fall.

Heyward, 28, is young, black and charismatic. He'll relate well to the recruits he'll be dealing with in Portland and Los Angeles.

• Banker, on Burton, who left to become defensive coordinator at Nevada: 'It's a great opportunity for Nigel. When you get the chance to take on more responsibility, you have to take it.'

• The truth on offensive tackle Tavita Thompson, who was suspended for the second half of the 2007 season: He flunked a random drug test and was determined to have used a performance enhancer, which calls for a one-year penalty.

Thompson claims it was a false positive. Oregon State has filed an appeal with the NCAA and hopes to regain his eligibility in time for spring ball.

If not, Thompson - who missed the Beavers' last six games - wouldn't be eligible to return until a Nov. 1 game against Arizona State.

• Add three prep verbal commitments to Oregon State's list, which now numbers 10: Offensive linemen Benji Kemoeatu, 6-3, 315 pounds, and Anthony Siilata, 6-2, 285, both from Kahuku, Hawaii; and Kameron Krebs, a 6-1, 210-pound safety formerly of Kahuku who now lives in Mission Viejo, Calif.

Krebs' older brother, Kaulin, a quarterback, signed with OSU in 2006 and is on a church mission.

OSU had five recruits in Corvallis last weekend - Krebs and tailback Jovan Stevenson of Tucson, Ariz., who already have committed; cornerbacks Anthony Dye of Corona, Calif., and Kevan Walker of Arcadia, Calif.; and receiver Keynan Parker from Vancouver, British Columbia. Walker is the son of UCLA D-coordinator DeWayne Walker.

Quarterback Nate Stanley and receiver Randy July of Tahlequah, Okla., are expected in for a Wednesday visit. This weekend, the Beavers will play host to 10 recruits, including Kemoeatu, Siilata and linebacker Paipai Falemalu of Kahuku, Sprague linebacker Tony Wilson and West Salem receiver Jordon Bishop. Wilson has committed.

• Oregon State continues its recruitment of Simi Kuli, the defensive tackle from El Camino College in Torrance, Calif., who is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 JC player in the nation. Riley visited Kuli at his home last week. Kuli would not be able to enroll at OSU until summer at the earliest.

Offensive tackle Vil Nau of Mt. San Antonio in Walnut, Calif., is expected to sign his letter of intent this winter. He is a possibility to enroll in school this spring, along with JC signee defensive tackle Steven Paea of Snow College in Ephraim, Utah.

H-back Jeremy Francis and offensive guard Brent McNeil from El Camino probably won't enroll at OSU until summer.

• OSU coaches have watched game video of Anthony Oden, the younger brother of the Blazers' Greg Oden. Anthony Oden played offensive tackle and tight end for Lawrence North High in Indianapolis. There's a chance he could wind up in Corvallis, though probably not with a scholarship to start.

Anthony Oden is listed at 6-8, 280, 'but he's more like 6-7 and 315,' Greg Oden says. 'He's quick, though. When you see him, you'll be like, 'Wow.' He's slim, but he's big, and he's athletic.'

• Beaver coaches also have interest in Grant High's Andre Broadous, initially as a cornerback/special teams prospect.

• Sophomore-to-be Justin Kahut will have some competition for the place-kicking job from transfer Sean Sehnem, who played two years at Western New Mexico. Sehnem, an invited walk-on, also punts. He made 15 of 20 field goals during the 2006 season, including a 55-yarder, and punted for a 43.2-yard average.

• Recent surgery repaired the torn labrum on Sean Canfield's throwing (left) shoulder, but the Beaver QB will miss spring ball.

'The doctor said he could have just continued to play, but it would never have been as strong without surgery,' Riley says. 'He should be at full strength for (August training) camp.'

• Gerard Lawson drew some NFL attention with kickoff returns of 52 and 38 yards and a jarring tackle on a kickoff during the Hula Bowl.

'Gerard had a lot of fun,' says Riley, who was head coach for the West squad. 'It's unusual a guy would get picked for an all-star game based on special teams, but that just shows how outstanding he is. A lot of scouts were asking me questions about him.'

Yvenson Bernard carried six times for 23 yards and caught a 15-yard pass, but he was a victim of numbers. The West had four tailbacks who drew straws to determine the order of play.

'He had some really good runs,' says Riley, whose team lost 38-7. 'If we were really playing it to win, we'd have given it to Ev 30 times, and maybe we'd have won.'

• Graduated QB Ryan Gunderson will replace Gary Beck and serve as offensive graduate assistant next season. Inoke Breckterfield will remain as the defensive GA unless he lands a full-time job elsewhere.

• OSU coaches have not been in contact with Reggie Dunn - the highly regarded receiver from Los Angeles who signed with OSU last year but failed to qualify academically - and don't expect him to play with the Beavers.

- Kerry Eggers