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Smarter, stronger, faster

Quarterback Katz says he's ready to play, lead OSU
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz, trying to elude the Oregon defense in the 2010 Civil War, says he is fully healed from right wrist surgery and has been leading informal summer workouts.

CORVALLIS - Ryan Katz is moonlighting this summer as an intern with the OSU Federal Credit Union.

His real job, of course, is in preparing his Oregon State teammates for battle on the gridiron this fall.

With coaches barred from participation, OSU's junior quarterback has taken the leadership role in organizing summer workouts as the Beavers await the Aug. 8 opening of training camp.

'Ryan has been a true leader of our team in this offseason program, even after not getting to participate fully in spring ball,' OSU coach Mike Riley said. 'He's a quality young man. I'm very excited about what he can do in this upcoming season.'

Katz said he is '100 percent' recovered from January surgery to his right wrist after breaking it in the first quarter (but playing the entire way) in the Oregon game. Due to the surgery, he was limited with what he was able to do in spring practice.

'I was cleared for full duty about a month ago, but I was doing everything even before I was cleared,' Katz said. 'It was full speed for me, really, after spring ball. I had three months off where I couldn't do anything, so my body wasn't tired. After spring ball, we were out here throwing three or four times a week already.'

On Tuesday night at Reser Stadium, after a full afternoon of weight lifting, running and throwing pass patterns, Katz quarterbacked the winning side in a spirited pickup game of flash ball with his teammates.

'It was just something to have fun, get the competitive juices going,' the Santa Monica, Calif., native said.

The 6-1 Katz has a different look to him than he did as a sophomore. He is up about five pounds to 215, and with a rippled body and a longer hairstyle - 'I'm letting it grow a little bit. Something new,' he said - he wears the look of an Adonis.

Katz can still run, and the sharpness on his passes was evident as he sent his receivers through their routes.

'Ryan has improved a lot,' tight end Joe Halahuni said. 'He's smarter. He's stronger. I think he's faster, too. It doesn't seem like his injury, or having to sit out spring ball, slowed him down at all.

'He has become the leader in organizing all the passing drills. You can see it in the weight room, you can see it on the field - he's the leader out there.'

Katz feels it, too.

'Without a doubt,' said Katz, who arrived in Corvallis for spring ball in 2008 after graduating early from high school. 'I've been here for four years - seems even longer. I'm trying to take the leadership role. I'm taking it upon myself to get these guys out here on their off days and work.'

The Beavers lift and run together four days a week, 'and we usually get in two other days a week on our own,' Katz said.

Katz said he is taking a different approach to working with receivers this summer. Rather than having players practice specifically for split end, slotback and flanker plays, 'all of the receivers are learning every single route,' he said. 'And everyone is running every route from every spot on the field. These guys are getting a grasp of all (three) positions.'

In his first year as a starter in 2010, Katz completed 213 of 355 passes (60 percent) for 2,401 yards and 18 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He ranked seventh in the Pac-10 in passing yardage per game and pass efficiency and started the season with 129 pass attempts without a pick.

Historically, quarterbacks in Riley's OSU system take a quantum leap after their first season as a starter (see: Derek Anderson, Matt Moore, Sean Canfield). Katz seems poised for a similar jump.

'I feel a lot more comfortable,' he said. 'This stuff is slowing down. I feel like I'm ready to go. Can't wait for that first game.'

'It's somewhat of a natural progression,' Riley offered. 'There's nothing like the experience of playing in a game, stacking those experiences game by game on one another and carrying it into a new year. He'll enter this season with a ton more knowledge than he had a year ago.'

Riley talked last year about introducing some of the spread option concepts to his offense to take advantage of Katz's fleet feet. Will the coach implement that for this season?

'We will,' Riley said. 'It will be kind of like how we incorporated the fly sweep. We're not a fly offensive team, but the play has been good for us. If we can take something from the spread and learn to execute it well, Ryan will physically be able to handle it.'

Most media 'experts' are prognosticating Oregon State to finish down the ladder in the standings in the Pac-12's first season.

'We have our own experts on this team,' Katz countered. 'We're going with how we feel. We have a lot of talent. It's a matter of can we come together and connect as a team?

'This summer has been a good bonding experience. Guys are getting comfortable with each other. If we're clicking, this team can go far.'

Katz has been interning at OSU Federal Credit Union from Monday through Thursday, five hours a day through the summer.

'It's been a good experience,' said Katz, a finance major. 'I've been hitting in all departments, learning the difference between a bank and credit union. I've been in the accounting, finance and investments, and I'll be in marketing for another week.'

Katz's internship ends Aug. 2. Six days later, training camp opens, and the QB's real job begins.