Oregon State Running Back’s Coach Michael Pitre sees success, growth from running back room

By Alex Reich
Jermar Jefferson scores a touchdown against Washington State on November 7th in Reser Stadium.

Jackson Smith, Sports Contributor

Since the 2018 season, the Oregon State Football team has seen success in a number of ways, including strong production from the team’s running backs, guided by the team’s Running Backs Coach and Recruiting Coordinator, Michael Pitre. 

Since Pitre’s arrival to the program three seasons ago, the Beavers have produced an NFL running back in Artavis Pierce, a PAC-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year in Jermar Jefferson, and more recently, finished second in the conference in 2020 in total rushing yards. That level of success mirror’s their coach’s own college accomplishments.

Pitre, a PAC-12 running back himself, played for UCLA from 2003-2007. The coach showed leadership traits from as early as his playing days, being a team captain in 2006 and also serving on the UCLA Football Leadership Council from 2006-2007. Pitre was a three year starter for the Bruins, where he accumulated two PAC-10 Fullback Honorable Mention awards.

Prior to Pitre’s signing at Oregon State in Jan. 2018, he served as running backs coach at Montana State University from 2014-2017. During that time, Pitre helped the running backs lead the team pave the way to two seasons ranked within the top 25 in team rushing yards at the FCS level. 

After his signing at Oregon State in early 2018, Pitre got to work with his new team and helped coach them to success on the field and in the classroom. Beyond adding value on the field, Pitre hopes to add it to the players off the field lives as well.

“Bringing the value by adding value to these young men’s lives on and off the football field,” Pitre said. “Ultimately help these guys to achieve their individual goals and dreams.” 

In 2018, Pitre would help oversee a program record. For the first time in school history, running backs Artavis Pierce and Jermar Jefferson combined to rush for over 2,000 yards, while also adding 16 touchdowns together as a duo. During the same year, Jermar Jefferson would set a freshman year rushing record for the program and would be named as a Freshman All-American, all under Pitre’s first year coaching for the program. 

Pitre credits some of that success to the team’s mindset.

“Let’s just get a little better from yesterday, today,” Pitre said. “Creating that mindset, that we’re always trying to get better, is why I think they were able to create that success, along with the players around them.” 

Throughout the 2019 season, Pitre once again oversaw a powerful rushing attack with Pierce and Jefferson each gathering above 140 rushing attempts throughout the course of the season and being the biggest parts of a backfield that averaged 4.6 yards per carry, accumulating enough for third-best in the conference.

The shortened and delayed season in 2020 due to COVID-19 health risks and guidelines proved to be no barrier for the Beaver’s offense and Coach Pitre’s running attack. The team was not only second in scoring, but also second in rushing yards for the PAC-12. 

Jermar Jefferson capped off his legacy at Oregon State as Co-PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Year, along with AP and Coaches All-PAC-12 First-Team honors. But among Pitre’s favorite moments from Jefferson was his contribution to a team win against the rival Oregon Ducks in 2020. 

“You could see a certain focus from our team during [that] week of practice. It led to a very good performance,” Pitre said. “It was fun to see the excitement and truly see what the guys wanted to achieve.” 

Heading into the future, there is a lot to be untold about the Beaver’s backfield. With Jefferson declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft, the position of starting running back is open for grabs. But, despite losing Jefferson to the pros, Pitre is not worried about the team’s outlook going forward.

“There’s a lot of talent in the room,” Pitre said. “We don’t reset, we reload.” 

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