By Kevin Hampton

Corvallis Gazette-Times

Spring games

When: May 3, 1 p.m.

When: May 3, 11 a.m.

CORVALLIS — As far as Terron Ward is concerned, Chris Brown is Oregon State’s best athlete.

High praise from a senior for a fellow running back who is a redshirt sophomore with minimal playing time.

“You ask him to do anything, he can do it,” Ward said. “He has good hands, he can run, he’s fast, he’s smooth when he runs. He’s going to be good in years to come.”

Brown made a handful of tackles on special teams as a freshman and he also got his chance to carry the football.

He had five carries for 29 yards and caught a pass for six yards against Colorado, and he rushed for 36 yards on six attempts against California.

He did not make another appearance in the backfield for the Beavers until later in the season in a blowout loss to Washington, but he made the most of his chance with 73 yards on seven carries and a touchdown.

“I feel like this year he’s coming into a state where he wants to play and he’s playing well,” Ward said. “He still has stuff he needs to grow on but he’s matured and he’s a redshirt sophomore, he’s been here three years, so it’s exciting to see how he’s progressed since he got here his first fall camp when he was a little timid to get hit. Now he’s delivering the blow and giving guys some punishment.”

Running with the ball comes naturally for Brown, who is listed at 5 feet 10 and 202 pounds.

Brown’s abilities stood out on tape and in person when running backs coach Chris Brasfield went to Fresno, Calif., to see him play for San Joaquin Memorial High.

“Chris has really good timing when he’s running the ball and hitting the hole,” Brasfield said. “He’s got good feet, some quicks, he’s got a little bit of make you miss. He can make a guy miss in space. So he’s got some of that natural ability there.”

Spring practices give Brown and his fellow running backs a perfect opportunity to sharpen their skills.

They have been working on ball security, receiving and footwork. High on the list is pass protection, a skill all OSU running backs need to perfect before being allowed to see the field.

“The big thing I’m working on right now is my blocking technique,” Brown said. “I feel like that’s one of the big things for me.

“Everybody knows how big blocking is. The better you are, the more of a chance you have to play.”

Brown was ranked as the No. 22 running back by ESPN and was recruited by most Pac-12 schools, along with Purdue, Missouri and Fresno State. It was a big signing for the Beavers, and Brasfield is looking for Brown to make an impact.

“He had some choices, so we were really excited to have him,” Brasfield said. “He’s got in and found his way on special teams and working hard on that, and now we expect him to keep getting better.”