Oregon State football coach Mike Riley said Wednesday he was “very surprised” to hear about Chip Kelly’s departure from Oregon to become head coach of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

Riley and Kelly enjoyed a good relationship for the four years the latter served as head coach of the Ducks. During two appearances at the Oregon Sports Awards, Kelly went to great lengths to compliment Riley as “one of the true gentlemen in our profession, a guy I truly respect.”

“Chip has done a great job at Oregon,” Riley said. “He has studied this thing (the Eagles job) very hard, I’m sure. You have to appreciate that.

“From an outsider looking in, it’s a great opportunity for a relatively young guy to take advantage of. I’ve admired the job Chip has done at Oregon and appreciate the relationship we developed through the years. I wish him well.”

On Monday, Riley announced a major change in his coaching staff, with assistant head coach/tight ends coach Jay Locey moving to a newly designed non-coaching position called “chief of staff.” This allows Oregon State to retain the services of Trent Bray, who becomes a fully paid member of the staff after serving as a graduate assistant last season.

Riley and athletic director Bob De Carolis have been discussing the creation of Locey’s new job for some time. Locey, 57, will focus on such things as team-building activities, leadership development, fundraising and high school and community relations.

“It’s a real bonus for us,” Riley said. “We need a person who can mentor kids, first as they come to Oregon State and also as they leave. We need to help get our guys jobs, get them ready for the real world. Graduation isn’t an issue anymore. It’s, ‘What are you going to do with your degree?’

“Jay will serve as an on-site mentor for our young guys. He’ll be involved with our on-campus recruiting, too, among other things.”

Bray, 30, had been a full-time assistant at Arizona State but returned to his alma mater last year when the Sun Devils fired Dennis Erickson and his staff. The former all-Pac-10 selection with the Beavers will continue to work with linebackers.

“We’re really pleased to keep Trent on the staff, working with our linebackers,” Riley said. “That group worked extremely well together this year, and Trent was a big part of that. He’s a fine coach who loves football and spends a lot of time studying it. He’s a big help to our linebackers and to (defensive coordinator) Mark Banker.”

Oregon State’s other two defensive grad assistants, Mitch Meeuwsen and Alan Darlin, will depart. Meeuwsen intends to leave coaching on the short term while Darlin has another job opportunity lined up, Riley said.

Tavita Thompson will return as an offensive grad assistant, and Riley is still considering candidates to work as grad aides on the other side of the ball, including ex-Beavers Keaton Kristick and Dorian Smith.

Riley is on the recruiting trail in Southern California, with visits to linebackers Michael Greer of Palm Springs and Keishawn Bierria of Harbor City and offensive tackle Sean Harlow over the next two days. Greer and Harlow have given verbal commitments to OSU. Riley has already visited this week with receiver Tatum Taylor in Seattle and safety Brandon Arnold of Encino, Calif., the latter committed to the Beavers.

OSU offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf is flying to Massillon, Ohio, to meet with quarterback prospect Kyle Kempt. The 6-5, 200-pound Kempt initially committed to Cincinnati but has reneged with a coaching change.

Among the others high on Oregon State’s recruiting list are safeties Eddie Williams of Harvey, La., and L.J. Moore of Fresno; defensive linemen Titus Failauga of Honolulu, Lyndon Tulimasealii of College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif., and Lowell Lotulelei of South Jordan, Utah; and athlete Corey Lawrence of Del City, Okla.

OSU coaches are hoping the three signed junior-college players — defensive tackles Edwin Delva of Antelope Valley in Lancaster, Calif., and Siale Hautau of Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, and cornerback Steven Nelson of College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif. — will be eligible to participate in spring ball. It is hoped a fourth JC transfer who has given a verbal commitment — defensive tackle Kyle Peko of Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif. — will also be on hand for spring drills.

The three signed JC players are included in Oregon State's 2012 recruit class. The Beavers have 19 other players who have verbally committed, although wide receiver Jermel Walker of Rancho Cucamonga, Caiif., may become an academic casualty. The Beavers probably can take another five or six players who haven't committed in the 2013 class.

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