Spring brings OSU's Anderson fresh lexicon, but familiar strategy

CORVALLIS Ñ Nearly every day since Mike Riley was named coach at Oregon State in February, Derek Anderson has stopped by the coaches' offices at Valley Football Center.

'Derek is a great kid,' Riley says. 'He is up here all the time, saying hi, hanging around, talking to everybody. He likes to be around, and we like him to be around.'

Anderson is in an odd position as spring drills begin Thursday. He's coming off a sophomore season in which he set school records by throwing for 3,313 yards and 25 touchdowns. But Dennis Erickson left for the San Francisco 49ers, and Anderson must prove himself to a new coaching staff.

'I do feel (pressure) a little bit,' Anderson says. 'Nothing is going to be given to me.'

Riley, who has never seen Anderson play but has watched plenty of video of him, says what the QB says is true, but only to a point.

'Derek is our first-team quarterback, and he will take the first snaps,' Riley says. 'And that will be true at other positions as well; the starters who are back earned those spots. They will have to re-earn them, but that is what happens all the time in sports.

'When a new coach comes in, every player feels a little at odds with what his niche is. We are going to give them a chance to prove they deserve their spot.'

Anderson was erratic during his first season as a starter, especially against the stronger defenses. He completed only 47 percent (211 of 449), was intercepted five times by Washington and struggled to get away from the rush at times. Too often, he overthrew his receivers.

'Sometimes I rushed things,' he says. 'Sometimes it was getting hit and trying to hurry things. I learned a lot from that, and it is something I'm going to work on.'

Riley will reserve judgment until he sees Anderson play this spring.

'I want to see him live before I say anything to him about technique or anything like that,' the coach says. 'He missed some stuff, but he hit a lot, too. He has a lot of skills. He can make all the throws. There is no substitute for playing, and he got to play a whole year. We get the benefit of that.'

Riley's offense won't be much different from the one employed by Erickson. The Beavers will use a spread formation with three or four wideouts and tailback Steven Jackson, 'and Steven is going to get the ball a lot,' Riley says.

But the terminology in Riley's system will be different, which is a concern to Anderson.

'It is going to take me awhile to get accustomed to it,' he says.

Riley says it shouldn't be a problem, though. 'The players will be comfortable pretty quickly,' he says.

Returnees Adam Rothenfluh and Anton Clarkson will begin the spring as Anderson's backups. Also on hand will be freshman recruit Danny Southwick, who is 21 and spent two years on a Mormon mission.

Anderson spent the winter working out with teammates, lifting weights four times a week, running and throwing the ball twice a week. The 6-6 right-hander, who reached 250 pounds as a freshman and spent most of last year at about 235, is down to 225.

'I want to keep it down to at least 230 next season,' Anderson says. 'I'm stronger and leaner. I am never going to be a burner with my speed, but I think I will be more mobile and be able to avoid the rush better. I took a lot of unnecessary losses that hurt us last year.'

Anderson says his goal during spring ball is to 'learn the offense the best I can in the short time we are out there, get to know the coaches and understand what they want us to do.'

His first impression of the new coaches?

'They're cool,' he says. 'I have to get to know them a lot better, but they seem like great guys, real easygoing. And they know their stuff.'

Some prognosticators believe the Beavers can make a run at the Pac-10 championship this fall.

'I feel the same way,' Anderson says. 'We have great athletes and lot of potential, but the potential hasn't been tapped into yet. We have the talent to take it to the top level.'

Notes: Riley's goals for spring: 'Learn our players and their skills, and set a foundation for our system that will take us into fall camp.' É The Beavers will practice without pads Thursday and Friday. Saturday's practice will be in full gear. They will have scrimmages at Reser Stadium on April 12 and April 19, with the spring game set for April 26. There will be no scrimmage in the Portland area. 'We just didn't have time to set it up,' Riley says. 'We will definitely do it next year.'

The only two players who won't be available for spring ball are tight end Dan Haines and safety Mitch Meeuwsen, both recovering from knee surgery. É Prize recruit Ryan Gunderson, the All-America QB from Central Catholic, may redshirt, 'but I hesitate to say that for sure,' Riley says. 'We will let him play in fall camp and see what happens. It would be nice to able to redshirt him, though.' É Southwick will be the only freshman recruit in school and available for spring practice.

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