BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Oregon State signs 11 football players, expects about that many more to join up in February

CORVALLIS — Bits and pieces from letter-of-intent signing Wednesday at Oregon State …

• Things went pretty much as expected with the early version of coach Jonathan Smith's first recruiting class. The Beavers signed 11 prep seniors, 10 of them committed during the regimes of Gary Andersen and Cory Hall. The 11th signee was Jesiah Irish, a 6-0, 180-pound receiver from Snoqualmie, Washington, who had also considered Hawaii.

Four players who had committed to OSU while Andersen was coach de-committed: Quarterback Spencer Petras of San Rafael, California; defensive end Andy Koch of Corona, California; and receivers Cameron Thomas of Austin, Texas, and Anthony Spurlock of New Orleans. Petras signed Wednesday with Iowa.

Oregon State was hoping for one more early signee, but receiver Halid Djibril of Los Angeles signed with Washington State.

"I was familiar with a lot of them," Smith said of the players who signed with Oregon State. "A lot of them had been to this place a lot of times. The majority of them had a good understanding what Oregon State is about."

• Smith said it is likely OSU will sign about the same number of players on Feb. 7, the regular letter-of-intent date, "give or take one or two." That would make for a recruiting class of 21 to 23.

Given the late start Smith's coaching staff had in securing players, Smith welcomes the extra time to evaluate talent prior to Feb. 7.

"We weren't going to allow the early signing to dictate our entire class," he said. "There are a bunch of players out there (left to recruit). That will give us time to get familiar with what we have here. We'll learn the areas where we need help the most."

• The Beavers took six offensive players and five defensive players in this class. There were two tight ends, two defensive linemen, two linebackers, a quarterback, an offensive lineman, a wide receiver, a running back and a cornerback. 

• OSU signed three in-state players: Bradley Bickler, a 6-7, 240-pound defensive end from Southridge; Jake Dukart, a 6-2, 180 quarterback from Lake Oswego, and Keishon Dawkins, a 6-6, 240-pound tight end from West Linn.

Five recruits come from California, and one each from Washington, Hawaii and Texas.

Smith said the focal point of Oregon State's recruiting efforts will be the Northwest.

"That's going to be a starting point moving forward," Smith said. "We want to start around here. We'll go anywhere for players we think fit this place, but it's important for us to know and identify local kids first."

Smith on Dukart: "A well-rounded athlete — an elite baseball player. I know his coach (Steve Coury) really well. Jake is a really good athlete and a good quarterback. He's a great fit for our place."

• Smith will add at least one more quarterback, likely from the JC ranks. Senior Jake Luton, junior Conor Blount and redshirt freshman Aidan Willard are the only returning QBs, unless the coaching staff decides to keep safety Mason Moran — who moved to the QB spot in late season on an emergency basis — at the position.

If another QB comes aboard, it won't be K.J. Carta-Samuels, the redshirt junior from Washington who served as Jake Browning's backup the past three seasons.

• The other areas of emphasis in Smith's first recruiting class will be both lines, especially on the defensive side. Expect one or two JC D-linemen during the regular signing period.

Of JC recruits, Smith said: "It's an important piece, but it's a selective piece. Big picture, I would rather work toward the development end with high school kids. But there's a time and a place with the JC player."

That would seem to be the case immediately with the D-line and a quarterback, and perhaps a receiver or two.

• The Beavers are still in the hunt for Crescent Valley's Talanoa Hufanga, the 6-1, 200-pound safety/receiver who is rated as a five-star prospect by Scout/247. In September, Hufanga narrowed his choices to Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, UCLA, Southern Cal and Utah. Earlier this month, he said he would announce his decision on Dec. 28. 

According to a source, Hufanga's top two schools are UCLA and Southern Cal, though OSU crept back into the picture as a "dark-horse candidate" after Smith was hired. OSU's linebackers coach, Trent Bray, recruited Hufanga for Nebraska before he was let go as part of Mike Riley's staff. 

Most likely destination for Hufanga: UCLA. Hufanga and his parents had a good visit with new Bruins coach Chip Kelly, according to the source, who says the Raider blue-chipper "likes L.A. and could see him being there the next four to five years." Hufanga will participate in the U.S. Army Bowl and the Polynesian Bowl All-Star games.

• Smith has spoken with OSU running backs Ryan Nall and Thomas Tyner about returning to play next season. Nall is a redshirt junior; Tyner is a senior who could apply for medical hardship sixth year.

• Oregon State has hired eight assistant coaches and has two more hires. One could be announced in the next few days, the other on Jan. 9, when the NCAA allows for a 10th assistant coach to be named. The Beavers will add one coach on offense and one on defense, though Smith isn't sure at what positions. He hasn't filled a spot in the secondary nor the running backs or tight ends. Mike Riley is the wild card; he'll coach whatever Smith doesn't supply with his final two hires. Cory Hall remains in the mix as a candidate for a job coaching in the secondary.

• From Smith's comments on OSU's Wednesday signees: Bickler and Dawkins are both "good basketball players with versatility." In Dawkins' case, "the upside for him is off the charts." … Craig Francois, a 6-2, 225-pound linebacker from Pasadena, California, "is a physical player who could play both inside or outside."  … Isaac Hodgins, a 6-0, 290-pound defensive tackle from Oakley, California, is younger brother of current OSU receiver Isaiah Hodgins. Smith: "Good family, good people. Excited about him playing the D-line, an area where we want to add." … From special teams coach Jake Cookus, who recruited Irish: "The guy can really run. He's a playmaker. He was team captain, a three-sport star, a good student, well-rounded kid. Very athletic." … Smith on Levengood, a 6-4, 260-pound offensive tackle from Vacaville, California: "I like his nastiness and competitiveness." … Kase Rogers, a 6-0, 185-pounder from Houston, "is capable of playing running back or receiver." … Isaiah Smalls, a 6-4, 230-pound tight end from Los Angeles, "was the lead recruiter of the class. He's got some athleticism. We think he's a great fit." … On Isaiah Tufaga, a 6-foot, 205-pound linebacker from Laie, Hawaii: "Good player, good grades. Like him." … On 6-0, 190-pound DeShon Wilson of Hayward, California: "Athletic enough to play cornerback; probably has the size to be a safety."

• Background on the signees: Bickler was a three-year starter at quarterback at Southridge. He is the nephew of head coach Kevin Bickler. … Dawkins was a first-team all-Three Rivers League basketball player as a junior. Said his football coach at West Linn, Chris Miller: "His best football is ahead of him. He has a great frame, good legs and an upper body that he'll be able to grow into with strength and muscle. He'll develop." … Francois had 13 1/2 sacks, 19 tackles-for-loss and 18 quarterback hurries in 11 games this season. He was a teammate of current OSU players Champ Flemings and Jeffrey Manning at Pasadena's Cathedral High. … Hodgins holds the Berean Christian High school record for career tackles (282), tackles-for-loss (70) and sacks (31 1/2)…  Smalls, who helped his Dorsey High team to the CIF divisional championship game, played QB and tight end as a senior. … Levengood was fifth at state as a sophomore wrestling at 220 pounds and eighth at state wrestling at 285 pounds as a junior last winter. … Tufaga led Saint Louis High to an 11-0 record and a state championship this fall, earning first-team all-state honors. He will participate in the Polynesian Bowl in January. … Wilson intends to major in mechanical engineering. … Hodgins, Smalls and Wilson will be early enrollees for winter term at OSU.

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