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  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Beavers' Bolden takes big step forward

  • Victor Bolden caught the kickoff at the 2 and headed forward, following his blockers.
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  • Victor Bolden caught the kickoff at the 2 and headed forward, following his blockers.
    The game against Washington was already out of reach, but Bolden was determined to cut into the Huskies' lead. He spun through a tackle at the 28, picked up a big block and broke into the open as one final defender's dive came up short.
    "That was a great play overall just by our whole team," Bolden said. "We kept fighting and we never gave up and my blockers kept blocking and I was able to find the hole and kept going."
    The 98-yard touchdown return was a showcase for Bolden's ability and the reason coach Mike Riley chose to play him as a true freshman.
    A week later, Bolden was at it again. He sliced through the Oregon defense for a 25-yard score on a fly sweep to give the Beavers a brief 35-30 lead late in the game.
    "It was great blocking scheme by my team," Bolden said. "I saw the crease and I just took it."
    Bolden has come a long way since August. The coaches immediately entrusted him with the return game — he averages 20.4 yards on 55 returns and the one score — and he's gradually gained more playing time at receiver.
    He has 11 carries for 86 yards and a touchdown and six catches for 62 yards with a long gain of 16.
    "He's been great," offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. "He was a guy that had such a good fall camp that we felt we just had to play him.
    "As the season progressed we've gotten him more comfortable with what we're doing and we've given him more and more responsibilities and plays and he's handled that stuff well."
    Bolden took to the return game right off the bat. It also helped him get acclimated to the speed of Division I football.
    "Kick return is a very fast play and it definitely helped me with improving my speed and improving my decisions on the field," he said.
    Learning the intricacies of the OSU offense has been a work in progress.
    Bolden said he was catching on by the middle of the season.
    "That's when I felt like I started to get the hang of it and I started to make some more plays and help my team out," he said.
    Bolden reminds some onlookers of Brandin Cooks when he first arrived at OSU.
    Bolden is listed at 5-foot-9, 165-pounds; Cooks was 5-10, 181 as a freshman.
    Cooks has since worked his way up to 186, added strength and speed, put together a record-setting season and won the Biletnikoff Award.
    "It's a great honor to be compared to the best receiver in the nation and with our same body styles, you can definitely see the comparison," Bolden said. "It's great getting to know what he does on the field and his work ethic and what he brings to the table and I'm definitely learning a lot from him."
    Yes, Cooks sees a little of himself in Bolden.
    "Yeah, I guess you could say that," Cooks said. "His work ethic is unbelievable. He focuses, he wants to get better, so I guess you could say that."
    Cooks could choose to move on to the NFL next season.
    If he comes back for his senior season, the Beavers will have a pair of dynamic playmakers.
    If he leaves, Bolden will be one of the receivers the Beavers will expect to help fill that role.
    "I think either way he'll be a real integral part of what we're doing. He's got good speed, he fits that Z, that flanker position well for us," Langsdorf said. "He's already shown what he can do running some fly sweeps and being a threat down the field.
    "He'll be a big factor to us whether or not Brandin comes back, but for sure having both of them back would be great, having some real speed and some weapons on both sides and if he decides not to come back, we'll have to continue to get Victor more and more throws."
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