Like most freshman football players who get on the field right away, Isaiah Hodgins has had his share of ups and downs during his first season at Oregon State.
Hodgins was a four-star recruit at receiver when he signed with the Beavers after making visits to Nebraska and Oregon and receiving interest from a long list of schools including Boise State, Colorado, Michigan, Purdue, Utah, Washington, Washington State and Wisconsin.
He has quietly become one of the most consistent wideouts for the Beavers with 27 catches for 257 yards and two touchdowns and at least one catch in each of OSU's nine games.
"I think I'm growing every week with more experience and seeing more things in the college football world, but I definitely hold myself to a high standard and have a lot more to work on," Hodgins said.
"So I'm going to finish these two weeks strong, go as hard as I can and go crazy in the offseason so I can come back and have an awesome sophomore year."
After one catch in the season-opener at Colorado State, Hodgins went through a three-game stretch where it looked as if he was going to be the Beavers' go-to receiver. He had five catches for 59 yards and the game-winning TD against Portland State, seven for 48 yards against Minnesota and four for 38 at Washington State.
His production fell off after starting quarterback Jake Luton was injured at WSU and the Beavers seemed to search for an identity for several games.
A breakthrough came last Saturday at Arizona. Darell Garretson hit Hodgins four times for 34 yards and a touchdown.
"All I do is take advantage of every opportunity I get," Hodgins said. "I can't control how many times I get the ball, but I can control when it is thrown to me if I catch it and what I do with it. That's what I try to do — every time it's thrown to me I try to make a catch — and I think I've shown that so far this year and I'm just going to keep on showing that these last two weeks."
Hodgins has a strong work ethic and makes sure he knows all about the opposing teams' cornerbacks.
He also benefits from going up against a solid group of corners at practice.
"I think we have very good corners and taking advantage of every opportunity, even when I'm on the sideline during games, just watching other corners," Hodgins said. "Studying film, seeing how they play, trying to correct my mistakes."
At 6-foot-4, 209 pounds, Hodgins has the size to overpower or outjump most corners.
Nevertheless, he wants to gain more strength in the offseason.
"I think if I come back this next season bigger and stronger than I was my freshman year, then it will be easier for me to throw people around and be more physical and be dominant out there," he said.
"(High-pointing the ball is) just something that comes natural and we work on that all the time. I've been working on that since I was a kid. The jump-ball aspect is always going to be there and I continue to work on that so it stays there."
Senior wide receiver Jordan Villamin has been one of Hodgins' mentors on the team.
They sit across from each other in the meeting room and were roommates in Tucson for the game.
Villamin passes on ins and outs that he learned from former OSU receivers such as Richard Mullaney and Brandin Cooks.
"(We) talk a lot — I try to give him all the advice that I know, like the little tidbits that I know that will help him succeed because I didn't learn them until later, so might as well teach him now so he can be just as successful, if not more successful, than I was here," Villamin said. "That's what I want for Isaiah because he's just as talented as I was, if not more."
The season has been a rough one for all of the players, but losing Gary Andersen was possibly even more difficult for the younger team members because they had never gone through a coaching change, much less one in the middle of a season.
"It was definitely tough, my first year of college and not even having a coach for a full year yet. But you never fold under adversity," Hodgins said. "I just kept my head down and had friends and family to support me. It's never easy to lose, especially when you're a competitor like me, you just love winning so it's kind of hard and I have to keep fighting through it."
Hodgins said he is going to stick with OSU despite the hard times.
He wants to help build future success.
"I don't have any plans on leaving or anything like that," he said. "Just sit here and control what I can control. I don't know what they're going to do with the coaching situation, but whatever they do, I'm still going to come back an even better player and keep working."