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Freshman receiver rises to the top

CORVALLIS — Freshman Isaiah Hodgins gave a peek at his future in Oregon State's spring game.

The 6-foot-4 early enrollee from Northern California pulled down a 38-yard pass from junior transfer quarterback Jake Luton in the first quarter, setting the stage for a 6-yard TD reception by Jordan Villamin.

For Saturday's season opener at Colorado State, Hodgins makes his Beavers debut atop the depth chart at receiver opposite Villamin.

"When I first got here I was definitely more immature as a player, more immature physically and mentally for the game of football. Since then my IQ for football has just jumped. From reading safeties and corners and coverages to knowing different playbooks and different routes to run. My body has definitely gotten more physically dominating," Hodgins said.

Overall, the Beavers are in transition at the receiver position. The top receiver from last season, Victor Bolden, has graduated. Hunter Jarmon, who was expected to be one of the team's best options, decided to leave the Beavers early for a pro baseball career.

Dynamic playmaker Seth Collins, who missed the final two games of last season because of a serious illness, was moved to slot receiver in fall camp. But he has a finger injury and won't play on Saturday, making way for sophomore Trevon Bradford to top the season-opening depth chart.

Villamin, a senior, is the leading returner at the position. After a promising sophomore year, he finished last season with just 21 catches for 253 yards and a touchdown.

"There's some good pieces to the puzzle. I like the receiving corps. But we have to be able to throw the ball down the field. It will loosen up the run game. It will get those safeties back off the ball a little bit, and those will become big threats for us," head coach Gary Andersen said this week. "But we've got to go out on game day and execute similar to the way we have in practice, and I think our offense will really be in a better spot than it has been in the past. Again, right now, that's just all talk. We have to go out and produce."

Hodgins, considered a four-star recruit, originally committed to Washington State but was also pursued by Oregon and Nebraska. As a senior at Berean Christian High School last season he caught 94 passes for 1,521 yards and 21 touchdowns.

A big reason he flipped to Oregon State was assistant coach Dave Baldwin, whose bond with the Hodgins family goes back a ways.

Baldwin was the head coach at San Jose State when Hodgins' dad, James, played. A fullback, James Hodgins went on to play eight seasons in the NFL for several teams.

"Coach Baldwin coached my dad in college so I already had a connection with him. I already knew that he was a cool guy. He'd always be at my house and we'd be talking it up," Hodgins told reporters before the start of fall camp. "I went to the Oregon State satellite camp in the Bay Area when I was about a sophomore so I got to meet the coaches early and everything, So just ever since then we've been building a great connection."

The connection has proven beneficial to Oregon State: Hodgins' younger brother Isaac has also committed to the Beavers.

Hodgins said Jarmon took him under his wing before he decided to leave the Beavers. Villamin and Timmy Hernandez have been helping him out since. And the entire group is working under new position coach Jason Phillips, who came to Oregon State after a stint at Kansas.

"All the countless of hours of work have come down to this moment," Hodgins said, "and I just can't wait to put on the jersey and go out there and play."

Oregon State freshman wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins enrolled early so he could take part in spring camp. [AMANDA LOMAN/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]