Record NFL Draft for Beavers
April 27, 2009
Corvallis, Ore. -
The 2009 NFL Draft is over, and it was quite the weekend for former Oregon State Beavers. Seven members from the 2008 team were drafted, a school record, and tied with Ohio State for the second most in the nation from one school (USC had 11). OSU head coach Mike Riley’s pro-style program at Oregon State has led to 20 Beavers being drafted starting with 2004 first round selection running back Steven Jackson.
Saturday offensive tackle Andy Levitre was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the second round. The Bills, who also have former Beaver linebacker Keith Ellison on the roster, were so impressed with Levitre that they made a trade to ensure he would be available. Levitre is expected to immediately compete for a starting position, possibly at guard. The Ben Lomand, Calif., native was a 2008 American Football Coaches Association First Team All-American, a three-time All-Pac-10 selection and a two-time Pac-10 All-Academic second team member.
“He’s a kid that’s really versatile, talented and a good technician,” Bills’ scout Rashaan Curry said. “At Oregon State he had played both guards and both tackles, and even a little bit at tight end. So (like Eric Wood) another blue collar guy, really smart, a football guy.”
Sunday was a banner day for the Beavers in the Draft, beginning with cornerback Keenan Lewis being picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round. The Steelers thrive on a physical pressing defense that Lewis should be comfortable with coming from OSU. Lewis earned four letters while making 47 career starts, the third-most in Oregon State history. The New Orleans native was a College Football News Third Team All-American and honorable mention by the Sporting News as a freshman. Lewis was also a three-time Pac-10 First Team All-Academic selection and led the Beavers in interceptions as a junior and senior with seven (combined).
“Get up and bump, and run some wide receivers and take away people at the line of scrimmage,” Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton said of Lewis. “He’ll be able to run up the field and it will allow us to do a lot more with our safeties to free up some guys. It opens a package up where we have now two big corners that people are always talking about when you go against the Arizona’s that we did in the Super Bowl – be able to match up and be physical with people. And that’s what we’re looking forward to with Keenan Lewis.”
Defensive end standout Victor Butler was the next Beaver drafted, in the fourth round to the Dallas Cowboys. Butler is projected to be a linebacker at the pro level after earning four letters while starting all 13 games as a senior. The Rialto, Calif. native earned All-Pac-10 first team in 2008 and was a member of the Ted Hendricks Award watch list, which goes to the top defensive end in the country. Butler burst onto the defensive scene at Oregon State as a junior recording 10.5 sacks as a speed rusher. As a senior, he recorded 12 sacks, including tying an OSU single game record 4 sacks in the Sun Bowl, giving him 25.5 takedowns in his career - good for second all-time for the Orange and Black.
“We project Victor as an outside linebacker,” Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said. “Victor is athletic enough to make the transition.”
One of the Oakland Raiders’ goals was to build team speed and former Beaver defensive end Slade Norris was their target in the fourth round. Norris, who was Butler’s opposite at end, earned three letters while starting all 13 games last season. The Jesuit High School graduate originally arrived at Oregon State as a safety before moving to linebacker and eventually becoming a situational third down rusher as a junior when he recorded nine sacks. As a senior in 2008, Norris took on the starters' role and finished the season with 18.5 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks and finished his career with 19 sacks, which goes down as the fourth-most in OSU history.
“We’ll stand him up at the linebacker spot to start,” Raiders Head Coach Tom Cable said. “(He) comes from a program that has really taken off in the last couple years.”
In the fifth round, Lewis’ teammate Brandon Hughes was tabbed by the San Diego Chargers. Hughes is projected to be a possible nickleback with the team in the immediate future. He earned four letters while making 43 career starts, which ties for the sixth-most in Oregon State history. The Bloomington, Ill. native was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection and broke up 23 passes during his final two seasons at OSU. He entered the season as a candidate for the Lott Trophy as well as the Jim Thorpe Award.
“He’s got good size for a corner and excellent speed; he ran a 4.4 40 (yard dash),” Chargers’ Director of Player Personnel Jimmy Raye said. “He’s an excellent man-to-man cover guy who went up against some of the best receivers in the Pac-10 and held his own. Hughes is known for making it tough for wide receivers to get off the line of scrimmage and into their pattern as a bump-and-run cornerback. He can play the ball over the top. He can improve catching the ball, but he’s a smart guy with no off-field problems. He’s a solid overall player.'
Safety Al Afalava wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, but he did enough in individual workouts and on the field last season to make him a logical choice for the Chicago Bears in the sixth round. Afalava will fit in nicely with a team that has traditionally featured one of the toughest defenses in the league. He earned four letters while starting 36 games in his career. The Laie, Hawai'i native earned All-Pac-10 honors twice in his career. Known as one of the biggest hitters in the conference, Afalava regularly created big plays in his career including scoring touchdowns twice in his career - on an interception return against Utah in 2008 and on a fumble recovery at UCLA in 2007.
“He played up close for them (Beavers), more in the box, but based on his workout – the hands and the range that he showed, we think he can play either (safety),” Bears’ Director of College Scouting Greg Gabriel said. “He’s a great athlete.”
The day wrapped up with receiver Sammie Stroughter being selected in the seventh round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Stroughter earned four letters while starting 29 games in his career. The Sacramento, Calif. native earned Associated Press Third Team All-American honors as an all-purpose player following his junior season. Stroughter missed most of the 2007 season due to injury before returning for his senior season in 2008. He led the Pac-10 in receiving yards last season earning All-Pac-10 first team honors as a receiver and second team honors as a punt returner. Stroughter concluded his career second on OSU's all-time lists for career receiving yards (2,653) and receptions (164). He also accounted for 14 receiving touchdowns in his career, the seventh-most in OSU history.
“When you get a chance at a guy like Stroughter (in the 7th round), with the production he had in his career? He’s exciting,” Buccaneers Head Coach Raheem Morris said. “You see that guy stick his foot in the ground reminds me of the guy we’ve got returning punts (Clifton Smith). He’s probably a 4.5 speed guy straight away. But he’s kind of got that peanut about him. It’s a lot faster when you’re trying to tackle him. He’ll stick that foot in the ground and move.”
It was definitely a huge weekend for the Beavers, but the fun is not over yet. Free agent contracts begin being signed this week, and OSU figures to be well represented.