Beavers might have one or more star rushers from Lone Star State
The running back position will look much different for Oregon State next season.
Gone are junior Ryan Nall (to the NFL) and senior Thomas Tyner (to a career in fish and wildlife).
Back is junior Artavis Pierce, a 5-11, 200-pound junior who is heir apparent to Nall as a starter. The Lake Alfred, Florida, native carried for 323 yards (4.8 average) in backup duty a year ago. If he stays healthy, he could become the Beavers' first 1,000-yard rusher since Jacquizz Rodgers in 2010.
Behind him will be a battle between three youngsters — and they all hail from the Lone Star State.
There is Calvin Tyler, a 5-8, 195-pound sophomore from Beaumont, Texas, who returned nine kickoffs for a 20.2-yard average and rushed three times for 11 yards last season.
There is B.J. Baylor, a 5-11, 210-pound redshirt freshman from Wharton, Texas.
And there is Christian Wallace, a 6-1, 220-pound sophomore from Sealy, Texas, whose promise has remained unfulfilled through two years in Corvallis.
All four tailbacks saw duty in the Beavers' scrimmage during a Saturday practice session at Mountainside High in Beaverton.
"Those guys are all doing some good things," head coach Jonathan Smith said after the scrimmage. "Each of them had some good runs today, and they're getting a lot of turns. That group is going to be critical to us. They're going to get the opportunity to step up. It's a good group."
Tyler, who rushed for 2,861 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior at Silsbee High, is a quicksilver who has a mixture of jitterbug and speed to his step. He reminds a bit of Rodgers, one of his heroes. Quizz, surprisingly, wasn't involved in Tyler's recruitment.
"Once I committed, he hit me up," Tyler said of the seven-year NFL veteran, who played with Tampa Bay last season. "That's my boy. We text now. We be on Twitter a lot. I saw him in our locker room one time. We chopped it up for a little bit."
Tyler has caught the attention of his coach.
"He has good patience and vision," Smith said. "Some of the runs he has made the first two weeks, he looks like a natural."
The decision to burn Tyler's redshirt year last season was a poor one by coach Gary Andersen's staff, though Tyler isn't complaining.
"I'm glad I got the experience," he said. "I wish I could have saved the year (of eligibility), but the experience helps me know what's coming up. I'll be better prepared for next season."
Baylor, who rushed for 1,997 yards and 24 TDs as a senior at Wharton High, is a mixture of power and speed — bigger than Tyler, not quite as shifty. He came up gimpy after a nice run in Saturday's scrimmage.
Beaver fans know the name of Wallace, though not for the right reasons. Rated as a four-star by 24/7 Sports out of high school and one of Andersen's plum recruits in the 2016 class, Wallace was a three-sport standout and a do-everything guy in football, playing quarterback, running back and safety while returning punts and kickoffs as a senior.
Wallace never saw the field during his first two seasons at OSU, though. Coaches weren't sure where to use him, but thought he would fit best in the secondary.
Through two years, "I tried safety," Wallace said. "I tried receiver. I tried special teams. Deep down in my heart, I wanted to play corner. And it did not work out."
Wallace nearly left the squad last season after his mother, Darlene Downey, suffered a heart attack in September. Wallace considered dropping out of school, returning to Sealy to help care for Downey and transferring to a school closer to home.
"When I was there, it was just the two of us," Wallace said. "I wasn't doing anything in football, and I was worried. I felt she needed me."
But Downey would have nothing of it.
"I had classes, and she didn't want me to drop out or do anything outrageous," Wallace said. "She told me to stay put."
Happily, Downey is "doing great," Wallace said. "She'll be up here for the (April 28) Spring Game."
Wallace is doing pretty well, too, after a change of positions this spring. The switch to running back was his idea, initiated in a January conversation with running backs coach Michael Petri.
"I was bugging (the coaches) for a good two weeks," Wallace said. "I showed Coach Petri my high school film (at running back). It was like, 'I'm not just talking, coach; I did this.' He told Coach Smith, who called me into his office two days later. Now, I'm a running back."
"He was eager to play it," Smith said. "So we said we'll give it a crack, and he's done some good things. He's raw. He has some work to do. But he has the size and speed, and some explosiveness."
Wallace has been learning Oregon State's new offensive system, which he said is similar to the offense he ran in high school.
"A lot of the same stuff, just under a different name," he said.
Wallace had a couple of nice runs in Saturday's scrimmage, but also a fumble when true freshman cornerback DeShon Wilson dislodged the ball on a big hit.
"He has to carry the ball a little higher and tighter," Smith said.
Whether it's at running back, or perhaps on special teams, Wallace should see some action this fall for the Beavers. He's having fun at his new position.
"I like it," he said. "At the same time, I haven't played running back in three years. But for the most part, I feel like I've got it.
"When I came to Oregon State, I just wanted to get on the field. Now I'm doing it. I'm happy about that."