CORVALLIS — Trent Bray is another familiar face to return to the Oregon State football program as a member of Jonathan Smith's staff.
Bray was a linebacker for the Beavers from 2002-05. He had 122 tackles as a junior and was second-team all-Pac-10 and had 116 stops as a senior and was a first-team all-Pac-10 pick.
He spent the 2008 season as a graduate assistant at Arizona State under Dennis Erickson and then coached linebackers for the California Redwoods of the United Football League for the 2009 season. Bray then returned to ASU for two seasons as the linebackers coach and went on to OSU from 2012 to 2014. He followed Mike Riley to Nebraska and was named the Cornhuskers' interim coach at the end of the 2017 season when Riley was let go.
Now Bray is back at OSU and will coach the inside linebackers, while defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar will coach the outside linebackers.
"Excited to be back and excited to work with coach Smith, the opportunity to do that and come back to this place and kind of his vision of how to get this place back to where it should be," Bray said.
The decision to return was a no-brainer for Bray.
"It was pretty easy," he said. "When Jonathan first called me I knew pretty much if the job was offered, I was going to come back. So that wasn't a hard decision."
Bray jumped on the chance to coach with Smith and get the Beavers through rebuild mode as quickly as possible.
Bray said Smith has had great experience coaching under Chris Petersen at Washington and at Boise State and that he knows how to recruit.
"The idea of who to recruit, getting the right type of kid that fits what you're trying to do — fits not only a physical standpoint, a mental standpoint. Getting like-minded kids, driven, disciplined kids that love football and then finding those kind of kids," Bray said.
"When you look back at the history of when this place has been successful, the Jordan Poyers, the Scott Crichtons, guys like that who weren't necessarily always the most sought-after recruits but were evaluated extremely well and they had that right mindset, which helped them and made them great players."
At 35, Bray is still young enough to relate to the players he recruits.
"I just think the connection with the kids as far as an age and then having played here in this conference, I think being able to relate in that way and what they'll go through and the things that they need to do to be successful I think has helped," he said.
Bray will have a good foundation to build on during the offseason.
The Beavers return an experienced and talented group of linebackers, including seniors Bright Ugwoegbu and Jonathan Willis, who were recruited to OSU by Bray.
Ugwoegbu, an outside linebacker, had 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2016 and had 55 tackles with 4.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks last season. He also recovered two fumbles and broke up two passes.
Willis returns for his senior season at inside linebacker. Willis had 68 tackles, six for loss with three sacks and broke up two passes in 2017. He has 161 tackles with 10.5 for loss in his OSU career. Willis has also played on the outside.
"It will be fun to come back and help finish out their career," Bray said.
Also returning with experience are sophomore outside linebacker Kee Whetzel, junior outside linebacker Shemar Smith, junior inside linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray, sophomore inside linebacker Doug Taumoelau, redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Shemiah Unutoa-Whitson, redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. and sophomore linebacker Kesi Ah-Hoy.
Whether they stay at outside or inside positions in the future is up to Bray and Tibesar.
"There's some young guys with some talent (with) the ability to run and do some things," Bray said. "Really, getting them coached up and understanding exactly where they need to be, when they need to be there. I'm really trying to help with that. But I think that there's a talent level that we can win with."