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OSU leads with punter

LOS ANGELES — Defending Pac-12 champion Stanford brought a preseason Heisman Trophy favorite to the conference’s media day event.

Oregon State brought a punter.

The Beavers, who didn’t win a Pac-12 game during coach Gary Andersen’s first season in Corvallis, are hoping Nick Porebski isn’t as featured a part of their team as Christian McCaffrey will be for the Cardinal this fall.

“Nick Porebski should be an elite punter,” coach Gary Andersen said of the former Australian rules football player. “I expect him to be an elite punter this year in the country. He expects himself to be an elite punter.”

Outside expectations for the rest of Oregon State’s squad aren’t as high. In the preseason media poll, the Beavers were voted unanimously to finish last in the North Division.

But there is reason for optimism for the program as Andersen and his revamped coaching staff continue the rebuilding process.

Darell Garretson won the starting quarterback job after an impressive spring. When Chuckie Keaton was injured in 2014, the Utah State transfer threw for 1,140 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions in five games for the Aggies.

“I guess the best thing I could say is he is ready to go,” Andersen said of Garretson. “I think he’s proved that on the field. When you look at our leadership committee, our kids on the team vote for that leadership committee, they vote for our captains, and he has a dominant amount of votes to show that he should be a captain and he should be on that leadership committee.”

The Beavers also return veteran wide receivers Jordan Villamin and Victor Bolden, as well as running back Ryan Nall, last seen rushing for 181 yards and a touchdown against Oregon.

Oregon State, which ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (19.0 ppg), reassigned offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin to inside receivers coach and promoted quarterbacks coach Kevin McGiven and offensive line coach T.J. Woods to co-offensive coordinators.

“It’s going to be a lot smoother,” Bolden said. “The transition is not as rough and not as extreme. I think good things are going to happen for us.”

Kevin Clune, another Utah State import from Andersen’s coaching tree, is the new defensive coordinator, replacing Kalani Sitake, who left to become the coach at BYU.

The Beavers allowed 37.0 points per game last season, which ranked 11th in the conference, ahead of only the Ducks (37.5 ppg).

Clune inherits six returning starters, including defensive back Devin Chappell and linebacker Caleb Saulo. Andersen coached the defensive line during the spring.

“Our connection is there, it’s very clean,” Andersen said of Clune. “He knows that I’m going to give him the defense, and it’s going to be his defense. It’s not my defense in any way, shape or form. It’s his and the kids’. I’m lucky to be able to coach a little bit on it, and I’m excited about that.”

Andersen built the Utah State program before leaving for a one-year stint at Wisconsin and then replaced Mike Riley at Oregon State in 2015.

Jake Cookus, a hero in the 2000 Civil War with three interceptions of Joey Harrington, returns to his alma mater as Andersen’s special teams coordinator.

The Beavers are serious about the game’s important “third phase,” as demonstrated by putting their punter in the Hollywood spotlight.

“I’m happy I’m here and able to represent the specialists,” Porebski said. “Specialists need love, too.”