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November 1, 2006

Doggett keeps Linebacker U going


That's the word that comes to his mind when Isaiah Cook is asked to describe fellow Oregon State linebacker Derrick Doggett in a nutshell. Cook would know better than anyone - he's roommates with the soft-spoken junior.

"He runs a 4.40ish forty," Cook said. "He brings it every down and makes plays all over the field. He's going to be a great addition to the alumni of fine linebackers here at Linebacker U."

And after Doggett's breakout performance three weeks ago at Washington, in which he recorded 10 total tackles including two for loss, a sack and a forced fumble, it's hard not to agree with Cook.

Doggett was also responsible for containing UW quarterback Isaiah Stanback in that game, not an easy task, considering Stanback is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the nation. Yet, Doggett stopped Stanback on several key third and fourth down runs. Stanback finished with a season-low 11 yards rushing.

"I had seen the papers, and how he was the fastest guy on the field, faster than me," Doggett said after the game. "I felt disrespected, so this game I just decided to go out there and show my speed."

His speed has helped him become one of the anchors of a resurgent OSU defense. On the season, Doggett leads the Beavers with 45 total tackles and nine tackles for loss. He's definitely served notice that he's a force to be reckoned with. Yet, he remains humble and unassuming as ever.

"I've just been working hard, especially during the off season." Doggett said. I'm trying to get better every day."

That's the kind of attitude that has helped him overcome adversity since he arrived in Corvallis in 2003. First off, he was only 186 pounds. Even today, he barely pushes 200 pounds. Secondly, he played very little linebacker in high school. Rather, he played mostly at running back, wide receiver and safety.

"Each guy has his own identity," said OSU defensive coordinator Mark Banker. "But absolutely he (Derrick) reminds me of some the great ones we've had here. Nick Barnett, Richard Siegler and even Darnell Robinson came here out of high school as wide receivers, safeties, running backs. Derrick is of that same mold, that's why we recruited him."

Doggett redshirted his first season at OSU and played on special teams and at backup linebacker in 2004. That season, he led the Beavers with two blocked punts, including one in the Insight Bowl against Notre Dame. Last season, Doggett earned a starting spot at outside linebacker. He, however, struggled against the run and was replaced by Andy Darkins in the starting lineup midway through the season. Despite that, he finished fifth on the team in tackles with 42.

"It was a little frustrating," Doggett admitted. "But it was motivation too, especially going into this season. It helped me become better player."

This season, with Darkins no longer on the team and Trent Bray and Keith Ellison having graduated, Doggett finds himself as the most experienced linebacker on the field for the Beavers. While he'll never be mistaken for Robinson or Siegler, who were known for their vocal leadership, Doggett has led by example according to Banker.

"He's leader from a productivity standpoint," Banker explained. "Derrick's a pretty quiet guy. But emotionally what he does for everybody else with the plays he's been able to make this season, his leadership has been outstanding."

Added Cook, "He doesn't have much to say, but he's definitely stepping up as a leader. It's a beautiful thing. He's a great guy and I want to emulate him. He's paving the way for me so when I get my opportunity, I'll be ready."

And if Doggett seems especially focused this season, it's because he has two more reasons play his heart out, twin 10 month old daughters. Cook says his roommate spends all of his free time with his daughters and is always talking about how they are the reason he's out there playing like he is.

"My family, my two kids give me a lot of inspiration," Doggett said. "I've got to go out there and work hard and set their future."

Right now though, Doggett's future is looking bright. His coaches love what his athletic ability and speed brings to the table. He's a perfect linebacker for OSU's nickel scheme because he's fast enough to get to ball carriers or drop back in coverage and cover a wide receiver downfield.

Banker, however, says the key to Doggett's rapid improvement has been his ability to learn and make changes. Doggett has always been a good student and it's paying off for him big time this season.

"This year, so far, he's just absolutely taken off," Banker said. "The big thing about Derrick is that physically he's improved so much. His weight is up, which has always been an issue. He's over 200 pounds. He just has such great speed. Now that he knows and feels more comfortable about out defensive scheme and his position, he's been able to do things he's done and been productive so far."

But according to Cook, all Doggett needed was a chance to prove himself. Despite playing in all 12 games last season, Doggett was never able to get into a rhythm because he never knew when he was going to get on the field.

"He just needed the opportunity to make plays," Cook said. He's always had the athletic ability. He's a real fast guy, a little undersized, but his speed makes up for it. He just didn't have the opportunity to show it."

Doggett, however, didn't sulk or complain. After all, that's not his style.

Instead, he quietly worked on becoming a better player. And while he is a man of few words, his play on the field this season speaks volumes about his improvement. But Doggett still isn't satisfied. He's got his family's futureto think about.

"I've got to improve my overall game and get better at everything I can," Doggett said. "I just want to be strong for them."

But one thing he doesn't need any help with is speed. Just ask all the poor running backs he has taken down or quarterbacks he has harassed this season.

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