Micah Hatfield changed considerably since he arrived on campus with the Oregon State football team.
He was a thin, quick receiver out of Lake Oswego High who was productive because of his ability to get open and catch passes.
Playing in the Pacific-12 Conference on a regular basis, however, he needed more.
More as in more beef.
Hatfield, a senior, has been plagued by injuries throughout his career that slowed his progress. A lack of strength played a big part in those injuries.
That changed last season and now he’s making a move up the depth chart this spring.
“I give him a hard time because he has some muscle definition now,” receivers coach Brent Brennan said. “He had good quickness and speed, but because he wasn’t strong enough he got knocked off routes with any collision. Now with the strength he has he runs through that collision and is making some plays.”
Hatfield came out of Lake Oswego weighing 153 pounds in 2009. He’s now up to 180 pounds for a 6-foot-1 frame.
“Something really clicked and knowing my time with football is winding down,” Hatfield said. “This is my last time to do what I want to do and make an impact. I know I had to put the work in the offseason and it made a difference.”
His first setback came in practice Oct. 13, 2009 when he suffered a broken leg. Hatfield redshirted that season to recover from surgery and was limited during spring practice. He appeared in only five games as a redshirt freshman.
More bad luck occurred in training camp during his sophomore season. Hatfield suffered a broken thumb on the second day. By the time he recovered, he was able to play in only four games.
Hatfield then broke his hand the following spring.
“It was a series of bad events,” Hatfield said. “At first you can say it happens and it’s football. Then people were saying I had an excuse, but I kept pushing through.”
A trend started that Hatfield decided to reverse. Getting stronger was the solution.
“He made the decision to be relevant on this football team,” Brennan said. “He has played really well this spring. That’s a big testament to how hard he has worked strength-wise. The last two years he really invested in the weight room. “
The joke about Hatfield among the strength coaches early on was how they described him as a squirrel, Brennan said. He would pop in and out of the weight room quickly.
“I’m not sure why I was like that early,” Hatfield said. “I was inconsistent and not motivated. It’s bad to say, but it was true. The broken leg had a lot to do with it. The motivation was shot and I was down on myself and I was feeling sorry for myself.”
Hatfield’s changes led to more production as a junior. He stayed healthy and played in 11 games. He caught nine passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
His playing time came in crucial situations. He didn’t just go in late with the game decided like when he was younger.
“When he lines up now he’s having more success, so he’s working harder,” Brennan said. “He’s super intense. He’s grown so much. I’m proud of him.”
Hatfield has played at all three receiving positions during his time with the Beavers. He started spring practice as the No. 2 flanker behind Brandin Cooks.
Midway through the spring he started mixing in at split end with Obum Gwacham and Malik Gilmore. The Beavers need someone to take over as the starter there now that Markus Wheaton has gone.
“I just want an opportunity to play anywhere I can,” Hatfield said. “They told me to know more than one spot so I’m not constricted to one spot. That’s my main goal, I want to start. Having me and Brandin out there, that could be a good combo. Hopefully the coaches see that, too.”
Neither Gwacham nor Gilmore have shown the consistency yet to take over. The other option is Richard Mullaney, but he missed the spring to recover from shoulder surgery.
Coaches want to find a place for Hatfield to play so his opportunity to win the starting job at split end will carry into training camp in August.
“We are just trying to give him a chance to get in the mix and push Obum and Malik at that (split end) position and see what are our best options out there,” Brennan said. “We want the three best guys on the field. Right now, Micah is one of them.”
Bulking up allowed Hatfield to be given this opportunity. The spit end frequently lines up on the short side of the field and faces off against the bigger cornerback, who is there for run support.
Hatfield will either have to block him on run plays or get through him to run a route.
“Once I got some playing time and comfortable with the team then I found my place and knew what I needed to do,” Hatfield said. “I talked to the right people and coaches, and they put me in the right path.”