It’s been quite some time since Avery Roberts was able to take the football field for an official game.
Roberts has not played since the 2017 season, when he got in all 12 games for Nebraska at linebacker as a true freshman.
As one of two first-year players to see game action for the Huskers, it looked as if Roberts was on a fast track to a starting spot.
Everything changed when linebackers coach Trent Bray — who recruited Roberts as a four-star player out of Delaware — left Nebraska to return to Oregon State and join Jonathan Smith’s staff.
Roberts found himself dropping in the depth chart.
Barrett Ruud, Nebraska’s new linebackers coach, criticized Roberts’ conditioning at one point and reportedly had him slotted behind four or five other inside linebackers.
Roberts decided to follow Bray to Corvallis. The linebacker agreed that he felt he was getting lost in the shuffle at Nebraska but chooses to look forward.
“I’m at Oregon State now,” he said. “Pretty much I’ll be somewhere that I know someone has my best interests at heart.”
That person is Bray. Roberts said the linebackers coach brings the best out of his players.
“He wants the best for you and you can tell he cares about his players and he coaches hard,” Roberts said. “He pushes you to be the best you can be.”
The decision was made without a trip to the OSU campus or even a glimpse of Oregon.
“I never visited before, I had never really been to Oregon, so once I got to see everything it was fine,” Roberts said. “It kind of looks the same (as Delaware). It rains here a lot more and it’s hotter in the summer.”
Roberts had to sit out the 2018 season and is ready to go for the Beavers this fall.
He has the potential to be a big addition to the OSU defense, which struggled to stop the run last year.
“Since he’s been here he’s turning into the player that I thought he was going to be when I recruited him out of high school,” Bray said.
“He’s just getting better, he’s learning the position and getting a feel for it. Then just the physicality that he brings, it really improves us and it brings excitement when guys hit people and knock people back. So that’s what he’s really adding to us right now.”
While he was sitting out, Roberts hit the weights to gain power and worked on his speed.
He watched the Beavers struggle on defense and knew what needed to be done to put himself in a position to help.
“It was a first-year defense, you could tell,” Roberts said. “Guys weren’t comfortable with the system yet and we had young guys on the field, so everyone was learning and it was just one of those learning curves. Everyone will improve and we’ll look a lot different this year.”
Roberts wants to emulate former Baltimore Ravens’ star linebacker Ray Lewis on the field.
“When he hit guys, they felt it,” Roberts said. “You didn’t see too many guys go forward after getting hit by Ray Lewis.”
Roberts said he’s also a run stopper who is able to use his speed at the position.
“I’m a physical player. That’s my game. I can play in space, I play sideline to sideline,” he said.
“If I don’t have to take on a blocker, then I don’t. There’s no need to take on the blocker if you can get to the ball, so that’s where (speed) comes in handy. You make more plays when you run to the ball and the faster you are.”
Unlike Ray Lewis, Roberts won't be seen by OSU fans doing any dance moves during games.
He has a much more understated style.
“I try to lead by example,” Roberts said. “They can look at me and see that I’m doing the right thing at all times, so that’s where my leadership comes from. I’m not really a huge vocal guy. I don’t really say too much, but when I do speak up people listen.”
Eldridge gets another year
Oregon State center Nathan Eldridge has received a clock extension from the NCAA after missing the 2018 season.