Kristick replenishes linebacker corps

Junior compared to OSU predecessors like Ellison and Bray

CORVALLIS — Keaton Kristick is a bit of a paradox: A longhaired free spirit who also was president of the Young Republicans group in high school. There is no such ambiguity about Kristick on the football field. The Fountain Valley, Ariz., native is ticketed to replace Derrick Doggett as the Beavers’ starting strong-side linebacker for the 2008 season, and OSU coaches think they know what they have. “We’re hoping he’s going to be real good,” defensive coordinator Mark Banker says. “We’d like to think we’ll pick up right where we left off (with Doggett).” Kristick has the same kind of optimism. “I’ve waited for this since my freshman year,” says the 6-3, 230-pound Kristick, who will be a junior next fall. “Now is my chance, and I’m going to do what I can to make some plays and potentially get some all-Pac-10 notice.” During his first two seasons, Kristick showed the kind of promise that made OSU coaches believe he will one day be mentioned in the same breath as past Beaver linebackers such as James Allen, Richard Seigler, Keith Ellison and Nick Barnett. “Keaton has a chance to move into a prominent, ‘Linebacker U’ type of position for us,” says coach Mike Riley, who considers Kristick to have the versatility of Ellison and the football savvy and toughness of another ex-OSU linebacker great, Trent Bray. “His time has come. I expect great things from him next season.” Biding his time Kristick played mostly special teams his first two seasons at OSU, though he made the most of a start at middle linebacker in place of injured Alan Darlin as a freshman against Hawaii, registering four tackles and a forced fumble on Warrior QB Colt Brennan. “He played the whole game and was fantastic,” Banker says. “In a game earlier that season, he’d gotten some mop-up duty against Stanford and had a sack and a fumble recovery. “Keaton could have played a lot more last year, but we weren’t going to take any of those three guys (starters Doggett, Darlin and Joey LaRocque) off the field just for the heck of it.” Kristick still got in on 15 tackles, biding his time. Now that time has come. “I want to play so bad,” he says. “I think I’m ready for it. I’ve been a patient guy. Now it’s my turn. Hopefully I can be a guy who is a leader, a guy who can make some plays.” As a high school senior, Kristick narrowed 14 Division I scholarship offers to three — California, Northwestern and OSU — before picking the Beavers. “I wanted to get out of state,” he says. “Arizona is brown; I wanted to go somewhere green. “This is the place I really wanted to be at. I enjoyed the coaching staff, the program, the weather — everything. I fit in here. I love the sun, but I’ve had a great time at Oregon State.” Kristick’s motor always is running, perhaps because he has a special affinity for a cup of java. “I’m known as the coffee guy on the team,” he says. “I drink it nonstop. I’m at the Beanery and Starbucks every day.” Kristick, who doesn’t have a car at school, rents a house with five current or former teammates along fraternity row not far from campus. “I walk everywhere,” he says. Linebackers have promise He’s a good student — 3.0 in business administration — which carries over to football. “Keaton has all the tools physically, but he’s also a very intelligent person and has a lot of football intelligence and instincts, too,” Riley says. “He’s confident, but way far from being cocky. He has a lot of awareness, that kid.” Kristick says he worked hard over the winter to prepare for spring practice. “I feel faster, more athletic and stronger,” he says. “I’m pushing 4.5 (seconds in the 40). I hope to do some damage the upcoming season.” Kristick and sophomores Keith Pankey or Dwight Roberson are expected to flank senior Bryant Cornell as the starting linebacking corps next season. They’ll have to go a long way to equal the contributions of Doggett, Darlin and LaRocque the previous two years, but they’re going to try. “Athletically, we’re there,” Kristick says. “We have speed, we have some smarts and we have playmakers. All we’re missing is experience. “I’m pretty sure we’ll get there. Bryant’s really strong, makes some big plays and is athletic. Both Pankey and Roberson are really good, with speed and athleticism. It’ll take some time, but we’ve all played some and have an idea how the Beaver defense is supposed to play.” Asked to describe his own play, Kristick is uncharacteristically tongue-tied. “I guess I’m just a bunch of everything,” he says after a pause. “I have some speed, some strength, but I have some smarts, too. I think I can diagnose a lot of stuff that will happen on the field.” Riley is counting on it. And he’s not even going to ask Kristick to get a haircut. “I always give him a hard time about it, though,” Riley says with a grin. “Usually when his dad shows up, his hair gets shorter.” This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.