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By Kerry Eggers/Portland Tribune/Junior linebacker from Phoenix disrupts offenses

RASHEDCORVALLIS — The name sounds as if it's the blend of a Canadian city and an auto shop.

Hamilcar. But it is pronounced "Hamil-cuh," as if without the "r."

Hamilcar Rashed ("Rah-sheed") Jr., never asked his family about the unusual surname that his father, Hamilcar Rashed Sr., also carries.

"My grandparents thought it up, I guess, and it just happened," Oregon State's junior outside linebacker said. "I don't really know if there's a story to it."

People often misspell it. And they mispronounce it "all the time," he said.

"I've been called 'Hamlin, Hamlicar, Hamilton,'" Rashed Jr. said with a smile. "I'm used to it. Goes right over my head."

Rashed Jr.'s mother also has a unique first name — Mi'Sharronda Walters — so it runs in the family.

Rashed Jr.'s coaches mostly call him "Ham." And make no mistake about it, he is playing an unusual brand of football for the Beavers so far this season.

The 6-4, 240-pound junior from Phoenix has 16 total tackles in OSU's first three games and leads the Pac-12 in tackles-for-loss (5 1/2) and sacks (three) as the Beavers (1-2) prepare for their Pac-12 opener, 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at home against Stanford.

"Ham has played at a high level," OSU linebackers coach Trent Bray said. "He has become that guy he is capable of being. He is being disruptive in the backfield and is making tackles behind the line of scrimmage, which is what we need those outside guys to do."

The softspoken Rashed, who also has two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, had 10 sacks in one game and 38 in two years playing varsity football in high school.

"I'm trying to get back to that," he said.

Rashed said his recruitment as a senior out of Chandler High was "an iffy situation, because of grades."

"Texas A&M wanted me," he said. "Oregon tried to get me to switch up (after his commitment to OSU) and go there."

Rashed chose Oregon State in part because his older brother, Keondre Dew, had committed a week earlier to play basketball for the Beavers.

"It was a big factor," Rashed said. "We're close. We always dreamed of playing college football together, until he had a growth spurt and switched to basketball. We used to play NCAA football 'Road to Glory' (a creation video)."

Dew didn't last a season before transferring. Rashed is in his fourth year in Corvallis, on target for graduation this term and ready to begin his masters studies this winter. And he has been a success on the football field, now in his second season as a starter in his second year under Bray and head coach Jonathan Smith.

"You're supposed to see these guys progress," said Bray, an all-Pac-10 linebacker as a senior in 2005. "By their junior year, you start to see that. Year two in our system, Ham is doing what we expect him to do, which is take a leadership role and gain a greater understanding of the defense.

"He is able to run plays down and do stuff off the edge that creates problems for an offense. That's his greatest asset — such good athletic ability for his size."

Rashed feels indebted to Bray for his guidance.

"I love Coach Bray," he said. "He has taught me so much. In one year, I learned more from him than I had throughout my whole career in high school and my first two years here. It's been a game-changer. I see why so many linebackers he has coached have made the NFL."

Rashed considers Oregon State football his second home.

"I can't talk enough about the love I've gotten here," he said. "These are my brothers, my family. This has been a good place for me to go to school. It's a big change from Arizona. I can actually focus on football and not have to worry about the distractions."

The losing has been difficult. Under head coaches Gary Andersen, Cory Hall and now Smith, the Beavers are 4-23 since Rashed's redshirt freshman season.

"It's been tough, but it's about staying connected to all of your coaches and continuing to believe," he said. "I always say, the school you go to doesn't make you. You can make it from anywhere. It's about keeping at it, staying humble and grinding away. You always have to keep your head on right and never let that change your influences in why you came here."

For some time, Rashed has been about giving back to communities. In high school, he participated in service projects to feed the homeless and paint a house for a special-needs family. Two summers ago, he joined several OSU student-athletes who flew to the Dominican Republic as part of the "Beavers Without Borders" program.

"It was a life-changer for me," Rashed said. "We planted yucca and corn, helped make houses for the people there. The idea was, we can help them, but they have to take the next step to help themselves. I'm glad I went. It's good to give back."

• Oregon State began the season with outstanding depth at the four linebacker spots. The depth at outside 'backer has been cut into with the season-ending knee injury to sophomore Addison Gumbs, the foot injury that will likely cost senior Andrzej Hughes-Murray the entire season and a knee injury that has sidelined sophomore Matthew Tago indefinitely.

Even so, Bray has talent on the outside. Starters are Rashed and 6-5, 225-pound sophomore John McCartan, who led the Beavers with a dozen tackles in their 45-7 romp past Cal Poly.

"John had to play a lot last year, which was great as far as his learning," Bray said. "He had to learn on the fly, and he has done a nice job taking that next step this year. He has done some good stuff, especially in passing situations."

The backups at outside 'backer are now 6-4, 250-pound sophomore Isaac Garcia, a former four-star recruit who got into the backfield a couple of times against Hawaii, and 6-5, 235-pound redshirt freshman Riley Sharp.

Sharp, a Salt Lake City native who served a two-year church mission, came off the bench for five tackles against Cal Poly.

"Riley is a smart, dependable kid with a good frame and good athleticism," Bray said. "He's getting back into football mold after a couple of years away from the game."

Bray likes his depth at inside 'backer, with starters Shemar Smith and Avery Roberts and backups Doug Taumoelau, Jack Colletto and Omar Speights.

"I feel like we're two-deep-plus at both inside spots," Bray said.

Smith is a senior in his second season as a starter. Roberts, a sophomore transfer from Nebraska, has stepped in and made immediate contributions.

"Shemar is playing at a much higher level than he was last year," defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar said. "Avery has done a really good job, too. He is showing what we saw from him in spring practice and fall camp last year. I'm excited about what they're doing at the inside 'backer spot. We're more physical there. We're making more tackles. We're beating more blocks."

Taumoelau, a junior who had three starts as a sophomore, "has played well off the bench," Bray said. "When he's in there, there's no drop-off from Shemar and Avery."

Colletto is the junior "Swiss Army Knife" of the Beavers who continues to play a role at quarterback but also made the switch to linebacker this season. Bray likes the toughness and physicality of the 6-3, 225-pound Colletto, who also plays special teams.

Then there is Speights, the 6-1, 235-pound true freshman who played at Crescent Valley High last year after moving to Oregon from Philadelphia to join his older brother, defensive tackle Jeromy Reichner.

Speights already has six tackles, one tackle-for-loss and a fumble recovery.

"We're very happy with where he's at after three games," Bray said. "He has picked up the defense extremely well for being as young and as new to the system as he is. He has the physical ability to play at this level right now, which is rare as a true freshman. Omar has been a nice surprise, and he'll continue to help us as we go."

Of the dozen players mentioned above, only Smith and Hughes-Murray are seniors, and the latter is likely to be granted a medical redshirt for a sixth season if he chooses to come back in 2020.

"I'm excited about moving forward with this group this season," Bray said. "We're in a good spot at the linebacker positions for the future."

NOTES: Jonathan Smith said several of the players who were held out of action against Cal Poly due to injury are expected to return for Stanford, including running back Jermar Jefferson (ankle), receiver Tyjon Lindsey (leg) and defensive tackle Jordan Whittley (knee). Center Nathan Eldridge (ankle) "is closer to a game-time decision, but he's pushing to get back," Smith said. ... Receiver Trevon Bradford, who had foot surgery in the offseason and has yet to play, has stepped up his activity in the last two weeks. "He's been moving around," Smith said. "The foot feels good, but he hasn't been cleared (medically) yet to play." ... Tago remains out indefinitely. ... Smith made no mention of defensive tackle Simon Sandberg (knee), safeties David Morris (foot) or Jeffrey Manning (foot) or tight end Isaiah Smalls, who hasn't played since the opener due to an unidentified injury. ... Tibesar on the Beavers' defense: "We're still in a constant state of improvement. We're not satisfied with where we're at. We haven't arrived as a defense. We have a lot of work to do, but we've improved on where we were at last year."

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