Coaches always sing the praises of their recruiting classes, but Oregon State football coach Mike Riley was downright giddy about the class of athletes he signed on Wednesday.
The Beavers added 21 recruits on the first day of the signing period. That is in addition to three that had already signed and one other who may join later.
Some of the athletes are expected to make an immediate impact while others are there to develop over time.
What had Riley excited was not only their athletic ability and potential, but their personalities. Finding the right fit of a person to come to Corvallis is just as important as the number of stars by their name.
“I’ve been impressed with the character of the players and families,” Riley said. “I feel real good about it. I have truly been impressed with the talent and the people as I went home to home visiting with them. It’s pretty neat, and you feel very privileged to be associated with these people.”
The talent is pretty good, too. The Beavers are tied with conference rival Utah with the No. 37-ranked recruiting class in the nation, according to Rivals.com.
That’s the second-best ranking in OSU history, behind the 31st ranking received in 2004.
“Our coaches have done an outstanding job recognizing talent,” Riley said. “I think this class is strong overall. It’s all about evaluation and where they fit in.”
National champion Alabama is ranked first. Pac-12 teams ahead of the Beavers are No. 9 UCLA, No. 13 USC, No. 18 Washington, No. 21 Oregon, No. 30 California, No. 32 Arizona State and No. 36 Arizona.
No. 48 Washington State, No. 62 Stanford and No. 67 Colorado are behind them.
The Beavers signed one four-star athlete — based on a five-star rating sytem — with defensive back Dashon Hunt of Westlake Village, Calif. The rest are mostly three- and two-star athletes.
“We don’t put a lot of stock in it,” Riley said of the rating system. “We try to rely on our abilities and process. We look at tons of players and we select from there. Any player has gone through a lot of eyes. When you do that you feel good no matter what someone else sees.”
What Riley saw this year was the need for defensive linemen, so he signed three junior college defensive tackles, one JC end, and one end out of high school.
Five junior college players overall were signed. That’s a change for the Beavers who have relied on their ability to develop high school players in recent years.
“We thought we needed help immediately so we needed some mature guys who can enter in the competition right away,” Riley said. “When you recruit a junior college player you can liken it to an NFL team signing a free agent. When they do, they do it for a specific reason. JC guys have two years and they have to make a lot of headway quickly. We hope these five junior college players do make an impact right away and elevate the competition.”
The void left by cornerback Jordan Poyer was huge. That’s why Steven Nelson out of the College of Sequoias was signed.
Nelson and Hunt make for impressive cornerbacks, while Justin Strong and Brandon Arnold are fast and aggressive safeties.
“I think it’s one of our best defensive back classes ever,” Riley said. “One of the things I’m most pleased with is recruiting corners. We haven’t done that well. This year we did that.”
The Beavers found the bulk of their recruits in California with 11, but didn’t find any in the Northwest.
Four recruits came out of Texas, two from Hawaii and one each from Alaska, Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio, Georgia, Florida and American Samoa.
“We try and do an excellent job of recruiting our state,” Riley said. “There were about half a dozen guys who signed in the state, maybe more. And we recruited some of them. It could have been about our numbers and where we ranked them. We had to decide this is not going to be a good fit. It’s better to do that early than late.”
There were times when an Oregon and Washington player were committed to the Beavers but went to other teams.
“I don’t feel too bad about that because I know what we put into it,” Riley said. “We were able to cover our bases elsewhere. We may find more in Oregon next year.”
The Beavers have more recruits than openings at the moment. There are 18 scholarships available for the 24 newcomers.
Some of the players may greyshirt, delaying enrollment until the winter term, if the numbers don’t work out, Riley said.
Normal attrition on the roster is still to occur and some of the recruits are not academically eligible at the moment.
Riley wasn’t surprised by a player he expected to sign but didn’t. There were some nervous moments with four players wavering in their commitment the last time he talked, but they stayed with the Beavers.
“It’s a good class, and we’re excited about the character in the class,” Riley said. “And what drew to us first was their ability.”