Faster, healthier Jacquizz Rodgers ready to lead Oregon State
Jacquizz Rodgers burst onto the scene as a frosh, nearly leading OSU to the BCS
Now faster, stronger and healthier, Quizz is ready to lead the Beavers to success
With defenses focusing on Quizz, OSU's finding new ways to get him the ball
CORVALLIS -- Here's what you need to know about Jacquizz Rodgers, the sophomore tailback at Oregon State who gobbled up 1,253 yards as a freshman, the 2008 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year, the dark horse Heisman candidate who looks poised -- is it possible? -- for an even bigger season in 2009: He is, in his own words, a pretty boring dude.
"Pshhh, my life, it's just football," Rodgers said. "Football, then go home, sit on the computer. Facebook, Twitter, whatever. You don't really have much of a life because of football, you just relax. But probably on the weekends you go up to Portland to go to the mall."
So, autograph seekers, take note: When he's finished dancing around defenses on Saturdays, the player teammates call "The Money" can probably be found in Footlocker.
The nickname's well-earned. After setting the Texas high school state record by scoring 136 touchdowns at Lamar Consolidated, Rodgers introduced himself to the college football world last September when he rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns against then No. 1 USC, helping the Beavers stun the Trojans 27-21.
"Everybody, all they want to talk about is USC," Rodgers said. "You get tired of hearing that it's the only game people remember. I know it was the biggest game, but..."
But? There's more to come. In fall camp Rodgers looked faster and stronger, ready to break out for longer runs -- a goal he set for 2009 after failing to break off a run longer than 33 yards in '08. With the help of his brother, James, a junior flanker and star of the Beavers' fly sweep, Quizz says he's ready to lead Oregon State, which came within one win of the Rose Bowl, to bigger and better things. And he knows his days of surprising teams are over.
"That's why I got better myself, so I'm ready for that," Quizz said. "I worked on my speed and I feel like I got a lot faster."
He's also healthy. Oregon State lost Quizz after he sustained a nasty hit from Arizona cornerback Devin Ross on Nov. 22. He sat out the regular season finale against Oregon, then missed the Sun Bowl against Pittsburgh. In what was hardly an offensive showcase, the Beavers won 3-0. Quizz had surgery on his left shoulder, and says he's good to go.
The question is: how far? Thanks to an encouraging early season schedule, the Beavers could very well start off 4-0. They open Saturday against Portland State, then travel to UNLV before hosting Cincinnati and Arizona. They've received a wealth of preseason love and interest from multiple national publications, a rare occurrence in Corvallis that's largely attributed to the Rodgers brothers' on-field success.
"That's going to happen with great players," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said of the attention surrounding Quizz. "It was somewhat like that with (former OSU running back) Steven Jackson, and I think the notoriety Quizz got because of the USC game probably made that a little different ... But all those external factors, whether it's positive or negative, you have to learn to handle in this business."
Around town, fans treat the Rodgers brothers like royalty, bombarding them with autograph requests. James and Quizz know the attention will only increase if they continue to light up defenses around the Pac-10.
"It's kinda weird," James admitted with a laugh. "But you still have to praise your fans because if it wasn't for them, you probably wouldn't have any support. Anytime they come up to me I talk to them."
Fans won't be the only ones paying more attention to Quizz. Knowing defenses will hound his star back, Riley and OSU are considering different ways to get Quizz the ball. Riley has played with the Wildcat formation -- currently in vogue in the NFL -- in practice, lining up Quizz behind center and quarterback Sean Canfield at wide receiver. If trickery fails to deflect the opposition's attention, Quizz isn't worried about Oregon State's other weapons picking up the slack.
"When they're running after me, other people can stand out," Quizz said, bobbing his head up and down with confidence.
A consummate team player, Quizz's favorite moment from '08 didn't even involve him.
"Winning in Arizona," he said. "We were down with a minute and something left and (kicker Justin) Kahut had just missed a field goal and then he came in and made the game-winning field goal. That was a big game, even if I wasn't playing in it."
This season, alongside his brother, Quizz should play in every game. And given the choice, there's no one else he'd rather suit up next to.
"I like to be on the field at the same time with him," Quizz said. "Because I know, no matter what, it's going to be somebody I can ride with, somebody that's going to give it all they got."
Now it's just a question of how long, and how far, the Rodgers brothers' ride can go.
Follow Lindsay Schnell on Twitter.
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