Scouting services say OSU's is one of top groups of linebackers

Four players have committed to Oregon State, bringing the Beavers' list to 26 players on the eve of Wednesday's national letter-of-intent signing day.

The latest high school recruits to commit are Pernell Booth, a defensive tackle from Billings, Mont.; linebacker Dennis Christopher and cornerback Keenan Smith, both of New Orleans; and Bryan Payton, a cornerback from West Covina, Calif.

Coach Mike Riley hopes to sign 28 players and is waiting for word on four recruits who haven't announced Ñ offensive tackles Tavita Thompson and Jeremy Perry, both of Hawaii; defensive end Domata Peko from College of the Canyons (Calif.) J.C.; and Michael Wallace, a wide receiver from New Orleans.

Perhaps the highest-profile recruit who has committed to OSU is tailback Patrick Fuller of San Diego, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a senior last fall.

OSU has commitments from six linebackers, including Keith Ellison, a second-team J.C. All-American from El Camino, Calif., and California prep stars Isaiah Cook of Claremont, Will Price of Anaheim and Alan Darlin of Elk Grove. Scouting services are calling it one of the best linebacker groups in the nation.

OSU coaches are ecstatic with the secondary commitments, including safety Lamar Herron of Sacramento, Calif., and cornerbacks Smith and Payton.

Numbers are lacking at line positions on both sides of the ball, though coaches are excited about 6-5, 330-pound Chris Miller of Butte (Calif.) J.C., who should contend for a starting offensive tackle spot, and prep tackle Jon Ioane from Tustin, Calif.

The signing of two of the three linemen still on the Beavers' list Ñ Thompson, Perry and Peko Ñ would complete what experts consider a class that should rank among the 25 strongest in the nation.


Fuller was offered scholarships by eight schools, including South Carolina, Oregon and Nebraska. He is 6-1 and 200 and runs the 40 in 4.45. ÉDarlin turned down offers from Nebraska and Washington. A two-way star, he rushed for 650 yards and 16 TDs as a fullback as a senior. É Herron originally committed to Southern Cal and was recruited hard by Washington State. Ranked 20th among the nation's prospects as an athlete and as the 36th best overall player on the West Coast by, Herron was an all-state receiver as a sophomore. ÉPayton originally committed to UCLA and was recruited by Arizona State, where his twin brother, Jeremy, has committed. Payton is ranked as the nation's 12th-best cornerback. ÉPrice, who originally committed to UCLA, is ranked 22nd among the nation's inside linebackers and the 54th-best player in California. É Cook is the 15th-ranked outside linebacker in the nation and 38th player overall in the West. He originally committed to Kansas State. É OSU has a commitment from 6-2 Brian Hildebrand, who is ranked as the 12th-best pro-style QB in the nation.

Beaver coaches are waiting to make a decision on scholarship offers to long snapper J.J. Jensen of Phoenix and tailback Matt Sieverson, the state Class 4A offensive player of the year from Bend. Others on OSU's 'maybe' list are Beaverton's Greg Laybourn and Jesuit's Slade Norris. ÉJefferson QB TR Smith, one of the first commitments to OSU last fall, apparently has decided to play at Oregon. Smith did not return phone calls from Beaver coaches last week. The Ducks also beat out the Beavers for defensive end Ra'Shon Harris of Pittsburg, Calif.

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