Texas Oklahoma St Football

Oklahoma State wide receiver Tylan Wallace is one of the Cowboys' returning playmakers and could give the Oregon State defense trouble in Friday's season opener.

Oregon State defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar is excited to see how his rebuilt defense holds up in Friday night’s season opener against Oklahoma State.

The Beavers and Cowboys square off at 7:30 p.m. inside Reser Stadium.

He knows his players will have their hands full against a Cowboys offense that put up 38.4 points per game last season while going 7-6.

“They’ve got an extremely potent offense and they’ve got a lot of good players back and a lot of starters back,” Tibesar said Wednesday.

While the Cowboys return several top skill players from a season ago, Tibesar said the key will be what happens up front where Oklahoma State returns four of their five offensive linemen and a couple tight ends.

The Cowboys also have running back Chuba Hubbard, who rushed 740 yards and seven touchdowns last season, and a plethora of talent at the receiver positions.

The biggest name is Tylan Wallace, who hauled in 86 catches for 1,491 yards and a team-best 12 touchdowns. Dillon Stoner (48, 603) and Landon Wolf (33, 362) were third and fourth, respectively, in receiving last year and are also back.

“So they’ve got a whole bunch of guys who have put up a bunch of yards and points that are back,” Tibesar said.

The X-factor, Tibesar said, will be who lines up under center to start the game.

Gone is Taylor Cornelius, who started all 13 games last season and finished 288 of 485 for 3,978 yards and 32 touchdowns with 13 interceptions.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said he planned to wait until Friday to choose a starter between redshirt senior Dru Brown and redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders.

“We expect to see both of them play in the game, whatever the rotation is we don’t know that yet obviously but they’re similar enough I don’t think it’s going to radically change the game plan for them,” Tibesar said. “We just know they are a really potent offense and they will pose a great challenge for us on Friday night.”

It doesn’t help that senior linebacker and team captain Andrzej Hughes-Murray will miss the opener and possibly the season with a foot injury.

"A guy who was voted by his peers as a captain, a guy who has really progressed and gotten better and had a great fall camp and was doing fantastic job for us, it hurts,” Tibesar said. “Fortunately we’ve got a little bit of depth at that position and so we can survive an injury.”

Offensively, the Beavers should be able to put up points as they will face a defense that allowed 452.5 yards and 32.5 points per game.

Quarterback Jake Luton will start the opener for a third straight season, beating out Tristan Gebbia for the spot.

“Ultimately it just kind of came down to Jake being a little further along in the system,” offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said.

Coach Jonathan Smith said Wednesday that he didn’t have any plans to play Gebbia a series or two but he “would feel confident to put him in if he needed to go.”

Luton will have plenty of weapons at his disposal, including Isaiah Hodgins and Nebraska transfer Tyjon Lindsey. Hodgins had 59 catches for 876 yards and five touchdowns.

Oregon State should be even deeper at the running back spot with Jermar Jefferson, last year’s Pac-12 freshman offensive player of the year, returning after rushing for 1,380 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“I’ve been working extra hard this offseason because I know everybody knows about me now and they’re coming after my head and everything so I’ve just been doing extra work and watching extra film,” Jefferson said.

Artavis Pierce, the starter at the beginning of last season before suffering an injury, is back after rushing for 408 yards on 54 carries with four touchdowns.

B.J. Baylor has also impressed the coaches and should see some action.

“I think you’ll see three for sure,” Lindgren said. “Those guys have earned it. They’ve had really good camps. I think AP’s back healthy now and Jermar has had a really good last week and a half, two weeks and B.J., shoot he’s been one of the most improved guys. Yeah I think we’ll have some wrinkles for each of those guys.”

A win Friday would be big for an Oregon State team that was just 2-10 last season and has not had a winning season since 2013.

But a loss won’t be devastating as it’s a long season.

“Whether we do really good or really bad, one game is not going to define us,” Hodgins said. “I feel like this team is light years ahead of where we were last year and we’re definitely ready for the challenges. We’re a more tight-knit group so it’s going to help with adversity, going to help with the ups and downs. I feel like we’re never going to get too high or too low.”

Be the first to know - Sign up for News Alerts

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Sports Editor

Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald