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Maurer earns starting job at tight end for OSU

Maurer earns starting job at tight end for OSU

CORVALLIS -- Marty Maurer has a right to be optimistic at Oregon State this season.

After playing second fiddle at tight end the past two seasons, the former Cascade Christian High standout has finally earned the No. — spot on the Beavers' depth chart.

Even more important are Maurer's two biggest supporters: new coach Dennis Erickson and returning quarterback Jonathan Smith.

Marty's going to have a heck of a year for us, predicts Erickson, who will make his return to the collegiate ranks this season after four seasons in the NFL. Tight end is a very important part of every offense, but it's even more important in this offense. You have to be very versatile and be able to catch the ball as well as block. Marty can do that.

If Smith has any say in the matter, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Maurer will get a chance to make a huge impact on one of the most anticipated seasons in Oregon State history.

The last two years with coach (Mike) Riley I don't think there was a large emphasis on using the tight end, says the sophomore quarterback. I think Marty has the opportunity to catch 30 or 40 balls in this offense. I think he'll get plays called specifically for him.

That type of attention would be just fine for Maurer, who enters his junior campaign with 20 career receptions for 179 yards and one touchdown.

I look forward to getting a few more balls, he says, smiling.

Coach Erickson's offense is so wide open. If you make plays, he'll give you the opportunity to keep making plays. When you catch the ball, if you can make something happen then you're going to keep getting the ball. It's as simple as that.

With Smith coming off a breakout season and running back Ken Simonton producing the school's first 1,000-yard freshman campaign last season, Erickson says Maurer could be the team's secret weapon.

If we're successful in our philosophy, he'll end up getting single covered a lot because they'll be looking at other people, the coach says. It's very important that he becomes really involved in catching the football in our passing game.

If Maurer finds daylight, Smith won't hesitate to throw him the ball.

Marty is one of those consistent guys, says Smith, who is also one of Maurer's three roommates at OSU. He's probably got the best hands on the team. He consistently makes the catch, runs good routes and knows what he's doing out there.

Another welcome change for Maurer will be his increased playing time. After starting three games as a freshman, Maurer backed up three-year starter Joe Kuykendall last season. With Kuykendall moving on, Maurer enters fall camp penciled in as a starter.

I'm more excited this season, Maurer says. I don't like sitting out. I can't handle that. I want to be in the mix and have the game on my shoulders.

The biggest difference for Maurer and crew will be the new coaching staff. After Riley bolted Corvallis for greener pastures in the NFL as coach of the San Diego Chargers, Erickson gladly grabbed the reigns of the up-and-coming Beaver program.

Maurer says the offensive schemes and terminology haven't been difficult to pick up, and neither has Erickson's infectious will to win. A proven winner in each of his four college head coaching jobs, Erickson brings a 13-year record of 113-40-1 and two national championships to Corvallis. Erickson has had only one losing season during that stretch, a far cry from an Oregon State program that hasn't had a winning season since 1970.

That man does not like to lose, Maurer says of Erickson, who ranks seventh among active Division I coaches in winning percentage. A couple meetings and you already know that.

Not that Riley longed to continue Oregon State's losing streak, but Maurer says Erickson's demeanor is much more intense.

Coach Riley loved to sugar-coat things, Maurer says in comparing the two coaches. He'd say stuff like `Marty, that probably wasn't your best play ever.' Coach Erickson will say stuff like `That was the worst football play I've ever seen.

That's terrible. Get out of here.' I like that. It kind of hits home.

That's how the real world works.

Although Maurer hasn't had many run-ins with Erickson, it only takes one to prove a point. In the first scrimmage of spring practices, Maurer dropped a pass during a goal-line series on third down. The drive-stopper didn't escape Erickson's eye and he proceeded to tear into Maurer. It took a couple of rough days of practice, but Maurer says he finally regained Erickson's respect.

In turn, Erickson gained Maurer's attention. Faced with another similar situation, the tight end vows there will be a different result.

There's no way I'm going through that again, he says.

With Erickson at the helm and a new $1.2 million artificial surface at Reser Stadium, Oregon State stands to be in the spotlight this season. The Beavers have also installed a new lighting system thanks to a $500,000 gift from Fox Sports Net, tripling the number of light fixtures to increase the candle power rating from 30 to 130 feet.

Maurer says that kind of increased focus on the Beavers hasn't gone unnoticed by the players.

Everybody around here has a lot of optimism, but everybody also knows that we're getting the best of everything and it's time to go. There's no reason we can't win here, says Maurer.

Basically it's time to put pressure on the players to produce.

That pressure doesn't necessarily mean a sole concentration on the program's 28-season losing streak.

That's a media fact, Maurer says. As a player, we don't focus on that. All we know is that we have to be better this year than we were last year. Everyone wants to win. Nobody likes to lose. We go out there to go undefeated; sometimes it just doesn't work out.