CORVALLIS - If Ryan Katz is in over his head, he sure doesn't act like it.
The 6-2, 195-pound quarterback doesn't turn 18 until Nov. 1, but already he is knee deep into Oregon State football.
The Santa Monica, Calif., native graduated from high school early and enrolled at Oregon State for spring term March 31. Now he is dividing his time between studying for his classes (12 credits) and taking part in OSU's spring football practice.
'Ryan shows up in Corvallis one day, gets into his dorm, starts classes and begins football practice the next day,' coach Mike Riley says. 'He should still be running around the halls of Santa Monica High.'
Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf have been impressed with Katz's knowledge of the Beavers' offensive system.
'Ryan has done an outstanding job of entering into our program quietly and running our offense during practice,' Riley says. 'He appears to already have a grasp of what we're doing. That means he's studying a lot.'
'I've been into the playbook a lot,' Katz acknowledges. 'Whenever I have a spare moment, I'm studying it. I have to if I want to be a quarterback here.'
'He's a sharp kid'
Katz says he is still in the early stages of learning the offense.
'Deeper into spring ball, when I have more of a concept of the offense, I won't have to think so much,' he says. 'I'll just be able to play.'
Langsdorf shakes his head when he considers how far Katz has come in such a short time.
'He's only been a college kid for (two weeks),' Langsdorf says. 'Ryan needs some technique work, but his biggest focus will be learning the defensive coverages we see and the reads in our offense. He'll do fine - he's a sharp kid.'
Katz took two extra classes fall semester to graduate early at Santa Monica -with a 3.8 GPA.
'I looked at it as an opportunity to get ahead (at Oregon State), and I thought I was ready to go to college and start another phase of my life,' he says. 'It wasn't a hard decision.'
Katz considered Washington and Utah and visited Oregon and Oregon State before deciding on the Beavers early last fall.
'My teammate (safety Cameron Collins) was being recruited my sophomore year, and I was able to meet Coach Riley,' Katz says. 'Cameron came here, and I felt comfortable on my visit. I knew pretty early it was where I wanted to go.'
Katz passed for 3,805 yards and 39 TDs with only eight interceptions his final two seasons and was his league's offensive MVP as a senior. He can do a little damage with his feet, too; he gained 477 yards rushing last season.
In spring practice, Katz has displayed a strong wing.
'He has plenty of arm strength,' Riley says. 'He can throw virtually all the balls - down the field, intermediate and the short stuff.'
Redshirt year likely
With Sean Canfield sitting out spring ball as he recovers from January shoulder surgery, Katz has gotten turns with the second team.
'Sean not being there has been big for Ryan,' Riley says. 'It's given him the opportunity for more reps at practice.'
Juniors Lyle Moevao and Canfield are running 1-2, so Katz is likely to redshirt this fall.
'Our goal is to redshirt him,' Riley says. 'Our job is to prepare him to play.'
Katz isn't going to argue either way.
'I don't think it would be a good attitude for me to go into a season saying, 'I'm going to redshirt,' ' he says. 'Every player should want to play. I'm going to do my job and whatever best helps the team, that's what I'll do.
'All I know is, I'm enjoying everything right now. I look forward to practice and meetings every day. Just learning and being around the guys has been great.'
The Beavers have spent time during spring practice sorting out the kicking game.
Competing for long-snapper duties are sophomore offensive lineman Alex Linnenkohl and sophomore linebacker Walker Vave. And the Beavers will bring in a scholarship player this summer in freshman Marcus Perry of Chula Vista, Calif. He'll be the man to beat in August training camp.
Junior receiver Taylor Kavanaugh returns as the holder on place kicks. Sammie Stroughter and Kavanaugh are expected to return punts. Several players, including James Rodgers, will get a look at returning kickoffs.
• Redshirt freshman Ryan McCants hasn't disappointed at tailback, but junior college transfer Jeremy Francis - a 6-1, 220-pound junior - also has been impressive.
'Jeremy is a smooth runner,' offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf says. 'You worry about JC kids coming in out of shape, but he's in good shape. He has to get his legs underneath him and learn our offense more, but he has caught on quickly.'
• The offensive line is beat up, with starting guards Jeremy Perry (knee) and Adam Speer (chest) out. Among those getting a look in O-line coach Mike Cavanaugh's spring rotation are junior Gregg Peat; redshirt freshmen Mike Remmers and Michael Lamb of Jesuit and Ben Motter of Philomath; and sophomore Wilder McAndrew of Honolulu.
Senior Marcus Henderson and sophomore Ryan Pohl continue their battle for the starting center job.
• Senior Greg Laybourn of Beaverton is running first team with senior Al Afalava at the safety spots. Senior Bryan Payton is the third safety and will see duty at both positions.
- Kerry Eggers