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Beavers hit ground running to start camp

BEND — Tim Cook cradled the ball with both arms and blew through a hole during Saturday’s Oregon State football practice at Summit High School.

Kicking up his knees, Cook charged up the field, twisting away from a defender making a futile attempt to force a fumble.

A run like that can get a back noticed, and that’s exactly what Cook wants.

Cook is one of a large complement of players competing for playing time at running back for the Beavers.

“We’re all competitive guys and we all want to be on the field,” Cook, a senior transfer, said. “Each and every day we’re trying to get better just to make each other better, and whoever at the end of the day gets on the field is going to compete. That’s why our coaches like us, because we’re all competitors.”

Coach Gary Andersen wants to establish a strong run game and that will take several backs to carry the load.

Andersen mentioned after Sunday’s practice that the Beavers need at least three backs for the season.

“He wants a group of running backs that will run the ball and be physical, and I feel that we all have that,” Cook said. “We just have to get better every day and compete with one another and continue to do great things and try to compete for a bowl game, championship or whatever the case may be.”

The backs have been doing a lot of passing drills here, showing their skills out of the backfield.

Those with the more complete skill set have a better chance at playing time.

“He wants the running backs to be versatile. He wants us to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield, be able to run it up inside, be able to get outside the tackle,” Cook said. “He wants us to be versatile and we work on that every day. Coach (Telly) Lockette is helping us each and every way he can.”

Lockette said building skills such as catching the ball begin in the offseason workouts.

“It starts in the summer, catching the ball every day, coming out of the backfield, doing those things,” Lockette said. “These kids work real hard along with the strength staff to get these kids ready to go, catch the ball out of the backfield and get their bodies ready to go. It’s pretty hard out here.”

Andersen also spoke about freshman Art Pierce in glowing terms following the practice.

Pierce is a highly regarded recruit from Lake Alfred, Florida, who has been a bright spot among the backs while in Bend.

“We’re getting better as a collective group right now. We’ve got a long ways to go,” Lockette said. “(Pierce) shows flashes right now, but we’ve got to get him mentally ready to go to play this game on the college level. So just bringing him along the right way will be the right thing for him.”

Ryan Nall is considered to be the starting running back, but there are several open spots.

The candidates come in all shapes and sizes. Nall is a big back at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds, as is Cook (6-1, 233). Pierce is 5-11, 201, and junior Kyle White is 6-0, 207. Paul Lucas, who is also a receiver, is 5-11, 188. Sophomore Kieran Yancy is 5-5, 178.

“Some games they’ll need a bigger back, so they’ll use Tim, sometimes they’ll need a more explosive back, they’ll use AP or me,” White said. “Sometimes they’ll need a quick back, they put in Paul at times, too.”

White sees the depth at the position as a plus for all the players instead of a stumbling block.

“I love it because we don’t have one guy that is amazing at everything,” he said. “At the same time we have all guys that are so great at each thing that it makes each guy individually want to be better than the other. So there’s so much competition to it that it’s like each person is building each other. He thinks you’re great at this and you think he’s better at that, so you guys work on each other’s craft together to help each other make each other better.”