Making it through a college football fall camp with a roster that is almost entirely healthy would be noteworthy during a normal season.
In 2020, it is somewhat remarkable.
Oregon State has managed to, for the most part, accomplish that on the eve of Saturday season-opener against Washington State. The Beavers have a few knocks, to be sure.
Starting linebacker Addison Gumbs will miss the game with a hamstring injury, and safety David Morris will be “available” this weekend, but could see his playing time limited due to a hamstring injury. Other than that, the Beavers are full go, according to coach Jonathan Smith.
To reach this point with the majority of its players available and healthy, the Beavers had to alter their training camp routine to adapt to an unconventional schedule. For nearly a month, Oregon State’s players have taken daily COVID-19 tests prior to practice and have not registered a single known positive result.
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“No question, we feel fortunate and recognize that it can change quickly,” Smith said.
And, of course, the Beavers had to avoid the typical misfortune that can hinder a team during any season. By this point last year, Andrzej Hughes-Murray and Jeromy Reichner had already suffered season-ending injuries.
Oregon State has managed to avoid all of those pitfalls in the leadup to the season.
“We still had some (soft tissue injuries) but I believe our numbers are down compared to last fall camp,” Smith said. “Those kinds of adjustments we made, the tackling thing, you’re always working for the right recipe there. We feel good about where we’re at.”
One issue that Smith and his staff faced during camp was trying to figure out how often players should be tackling in comparison to what they would do during a typical preseason.
“It’s a fine line between doing too much and too little,” Smith said. “We did have, obviously, a couple of scrimmages where we live-tackled. I think we had three other practices where we had segments that were live. So we got a good amount that way. We did more than just the 11-on-11. We’re doing some individual drills that are dealing with tackling.
“We’ll see exactly where we’re at. But I do feel that we’ve given these guys a bunch of opportunities to tackle and at the same time we’re keeping them safe.”
Cal vs. UW canceled
Less than a half hour after Smith discussed his own team's health on a Zoom call with reporters Thursday, the Pac-12 saw how quickly things can change. The conference announced that Saturday's scheduled game between Washington and California has been canceled because Cal does not have the minimum number of healthy players available to play as a result of a COVID-19 case.
Under conference policy, the game will be ruled a no-contest.
“The health and safety of our student-student athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 football programs will continue to be our number one priority,” the Pac-12 said in a statement.
The Beavers are scheduled to play Washington in Seattle on Nov. 14 and are scheduled to host Cal on Nov. 21.
Jojo Forest’s status
It was somewhat surprising when sophomore defensive back Jojo Forest was not listed on Oregon State’s two deep that was released earlier this week.
According to Smith, Forest has been “unavailable” for camp.
Forest is still listed on Oregon State’s roster, but it is unknown if he has opted out of the 2020 season. Oregon State will not announce when players opt out this season, and Forest has made no statement on his Twitter account regarding a decision.
Other players who are “unavailable” but are still listed on Oregon State’s roster are Onesimus Clarke, Jonathan Riley and Reichner.
Jarrid Denney can be reached at 541-521-3214 or via email at Jarrid.Denney@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @jarrid_denney