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October 16, 2012

Beavers take recruiting to new heights

MORE: #Rivals100 Show: Pac-12 recruiting dilemma

The buzz of the airplane could be heard above the football stadium just as the marching band was preparing to start its halftime show.

This was at the matchup between West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade and Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame two weeks ago.

Burbank's Bob Hope Airport is close to the stadium in Sherman Oaks so hearing takeoffs and landings are not uncommon but this was a different sound.

Much lower. Much closer.

Everyone looked up in the dark September sky to see words scrolling on the bottom of the airplane.

"Oregon State football," it read. "Go Beavs."

"That is awesome," one West Hills Chaminade fan said.

"What is that?" another asked.

Recruiting tactics have taken many forms but this might be a first. Credit goes to Oregon State director of operations Dan Van De Riet for thinking up this gem.

The Beavers' coaches cannot be at every game, cannot be out recruiting all the time, cannot make their presence felt across all of Southern California but if an airplane was commissioned to fly scrolling text above high school football fields across the area then they could get noticed.

And in a very distinct way.

"(Van De Riet) thought of doing that a while back and we ran it past our athletic department and of course compliance and all that but ran it by Bobby (De Carolis) our athletic director and everybody thought it was a good idea so we went with it," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.

"I think it's been a lot of fun. We've had a lot of reaction from it from recruits and families and fans. A pretty good idea by Dan."

This has not been a one-time occurrence, either. Oregon State commits Jordan Villamin and Jermel Walker have seen it twice already this season. This reporter has seen it at two different venues.

Basically, the plane arrives at the particular stadium, flies over about four or five times and then is on its way. Only a few minutes, but seeing the scrolling Oregon State text in the sky creates enough buzz and it noticeable just long enough for recruits, parents, fans, everyone to take notice.

Last weekend at the Rancho Cucamonga-Upland game, Walker was standing on the sidelines with USC commit Chris Hawkins when the plane flew over.

"I was over there talking to Chris and he said, 'Man, USC isn't sending me a plane,'" Walker said.

"It was great to see that Oregon State plane. It's a recruiting thing so it makes it great. It doesn't make Oregon State better but it's just a plane so it's like overwhelming how you feel."

Walker laughs about seeing the plane at his games. When Riley first told him to look out for an airplane flying over, the Rancho Cucamonga three-star receiver was not sure if the coach was serious.

There it was, though, flying in the night sky with the Oregon State scroll there for everyone to see.

"It's supposed to go around to all the commits," Walker said. "Jordan Villamin and Victor Bolden, they got the plane too, so it was great seeing the plane out there.

"The coaches sent over a plane just for their recruits so that was very nice of them. All the commits I talk to said they see the plane so it's pretty big for their recruits."

The Oregon State airplane could be a useful recruiting tactic, something not utilized by many, if any, other schools. Another great tool is how the Beavers are playing.

One of the biggest surprises in college football, Oregon State is ranked No. 8 in The Associated Press Top 25; the only Pac-12 school ranked higher is in-state rival Oregon at No. 2.

Also of recruiting importance in Southern California is that Oregon State defeated UCLA at the Rose Bowl in late September. Many recruits were in attendance.

Villamin has taken notice of Oregon State's success -- and the airplane. He's still wavering between his Oregon State commitment and Utah but the Etiwanda, Calif., three-star receiver said it's hard not to keep thinking about the Beavers when he sees the recruiting plane on Friday nights.

"It was pretty cool to see," Villamin said. "It said 'Go Beavs' and it flew over the stadium so I was excited.

"It's pretty cool because it keeps Oregon State on our mind when we're playing the game. It helps I guess."



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