Despite playing musical chairs at the quarterback position last football season, the Oregon State offense had some respectable numbers in Jonathan Smith’s first season leading the program.
The Beavers finished seventh in the Pac-12 in total yards per game at 404.8 and were fifth in passing yards per game (249.2) and seventh in rushing yards per game (155.6).
However, OSU was tied for ninth with 26.1 points per game.
While offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren was pleased with some of the numbers, he wants the 2019 version of the offense to be more consistent.
“I thought there were times in certain games where we were moving it and in rhythm and other games where we stalled and didn’t put up enough points or move the ball well enough to give ourselves a chance to win games,” he said. “We’ve got to shore up limiting our negative plays. I think that was something that stalled a bunch of drives (last) year. And we gave up too many sacks and that’s not just on the offensive line, that’s on the offense as a whole.”
The first step to correcting some of those areas begins Tuesday when the Beavers hit the field for the first of 15 spring practices. OSU will have six practices over the next two weeks, take two weeks off and go three more weeks, culminating with the spring game on April 20.
Lindgren expects the Beavers will be able to take the next step through the spring and fall camp as the coaches and most players have a year under their belts in the system.
“I just feel a little bit more settled with everything,” Lindgren said. “The guys that are here kind of understand the expectation, what we’ve laid out. They know the offensive schemes.”
Receiver Isaiah Hodgins, who had 59 catches for 876 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore last season, said the player are more comfortable and have better chemistry.
That should help make the Beavers progress quickly on the field.
“I think just continue what we’re doing now just hit the ground running,” he said. “We need to come out that first day of spring camp and have it kind of be piggy backing off of last year, there’s not going to be any real hiccups or anything like that. Get out there and get the ball rolling.”
The Beavers will once again be searching for a starting quarterback.
Jake Luton, who started five games last season and played in eight while dealing with injuries, is back for a sixth season after the NCAA approved his petition.
Luton completed 140 of 224 passes for 1,660 yards and 10 touchdowns with four interceptions.
Also in the mix are Nebraska transfer Tristan Gebbia, who was on campus last season, Jack Colletto, who started one game last season, Aidan Willard and Nick Moore.
Gebbia was expected to be the front-runner for the position before Luton was able to return for one more season.
“It was good for him to be around and he was in just about all the meetings and I’m looking forward to just start working with him to where we can start coaching him on the field more and get rolling with him because I think he’s got some ability,” Lindgren said.
Lindgren said Gebbia is more of a pocket passer that moves well and has a good arm and a sense of urgency in the pocket.
“What I think that stands out most to me about Tristan is I think he’s a really competitive kid that really wants to be a great quarterback and loves football,” Lindgren said. “And I think those are qualities of a lot of the great ones that I’ve worked with before. So I’m fired up as far as that goes.”
Lindgren said all five will have a chance to showcase their talents before the Beavers make a decision. That goes for all positions.
“I think the general stance we always take is, shoot, you’re always competing for your job," Lindgren said. "Whether you’ve been a multi-year starter in the program, you’re always going to compete for your spot and guys are going to be coming. That’s the culture that we want, guys that want to be at their best every day and push each other, and ultimately we’ll be better as a team.”
Whoever earns the nod will have a plethora of talent around them. In addition to Hodgins, Trevon Bradford is back after catching 56 passes for 649 yards and six touchdowns last season. Throw in Nebraska transfer Tyjon Lindsey and incoming freshman Anthony Gould and the Beavers have the makings of a solid receiving corps.
"Tyjon Lindsey, Anthony Gould, those two guys are some explosive players that you could throw a short pass to and they can turn it into a big gain and will give us some more speed down the field as well,” Lindgren said.
The running back position should be a bright spot as well with Jermar Jefferson and Artavis Pierce both back. Jefferson had a breakout freshman campaign with 1,370 yards on 239 attempts with 12 touchdowns. Pierce added 425 yards on 54 carries and four touchdowns as he dealt with injuries.
“Shoot, Jermar had a great season last year and having a year with our strength staff I think we can get him faster and even in better shape than he was this season and hopefully make him more durable,” Lindgren said.
Noah Togiai, who was injured parts of last season, is back at tight end and Isaiah Smalls will also be back after playing as a freshman last season.
The biggest question mark is on the offensive line where the Beavers return just two starters — Blake Brandel and Gus Lavaka. Lindgren said there are some younger players he’s excited to see battle for the open spots.
“There’s some candidates and there’s some good young guys we have in the program and guys that have been backups and so it will be an opportunity for them to step up,” Lindgren said. “I’m looking forward to see who kind of steps forward and takes those positions on.”