Jonathan Smith has talked all season about wanting to see improvement in his players as individuals and as a group.
On the outside, it may not appear that Oregon State has done much of that this football season, the first under Smith and his staff.
The Beavers, who are just 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the Pac-12, have two more chances to continue to work through some of the issues that have plagued them this season.
That’s exactly what Smith expects to see starting with Saturday’s game at No. 17 Washington.
“I hope to see continued improvement on the individual side, each individual guy continue to work,” Smith said. “I’ve got a long-term approach in regards to improvement over Year 1 to Year 2 to Year 3 and I think the best way to get that accomplished is the day-to-day improvement. And continue to play with great effort and improve at this thing.”
With wins few and far between, many people outside of the program may not see the same improvement the coaches and players say they have.
“I feel like we’ve improved a lot since the beginning of the year,” said junior receiver Trevon Bradford. “You guys may not see it as much as us because we are out there day to day. But we come out and work hard every day and if you’re working hard and preparing the right way you’re going to get better. It may not have shown up as much as we’ve wanted to on Saturdays, but we know were headed in the right direction, we know where the program’s headed.”
One of the main areas the Beavers need to continue to improve is in being able to physically challenge teams in the Pac-12. Smith lamented that aspect in Saturday’s 48-17 loss at Stanford. They get another physical challenge against the Huskies.
“In season you continue to try to maintain and work but most of your gains are in the offseason,” Smith said. “Some of that is just youth. You’ve got to get bigger, stronger which these guys will that are playing.”
Despite all the losses, Smith has continued to praise the players for continuing to work hard.
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“Everybody is still positive, everybody still comes out to work every day as hard as we can,” Bradford said. “We want to play every game to win so we’ve got two more opportunities to go out there and try to get Ws.”
That’s a different approach than last season.
“Hearing from the older players, hearing how they practiced last year versus this year, it seems like they’ve taken huge strides,” said true freshman receiver Jessiah Irish. “Just for me, noticing the summer workouts to now its increased with all the coaching. … I’m pretty excited and pretty excited for the future to come.”
Smith credits his coaching staff for keeping the players engaged and wanting to continue to grow.
“And I credit a lot of our older players in regards to echoing the message of the coaches,” he said. “Because it is hard after eight tough ones to keep on coming back to work. That’s why I keep going back to respecting this group, appreciating this group because of their continual work.”
It hasn’t been easy, however.
Smith said the Beavers go into games optimistic, “and when it doesn’t go our way it’s painful. Again, for us in this building, the work that’s getting put in, these guys are into this thing. So it’s tough after losses.”
Oregon State has two more games in Smith’s first year, and, regardless of the outcome against the Huskies or six days later against Oregon in the Civil War, there’s plenty of opportunity for continued building for the future.
“We’ve only got two more opportunities and we’ve been talking about it as a team, talking about finishing some things,” Smith said. “Continue to enjoy this process of improving and battling.”
He also added: “We’ve got some seniors and they have two games left and so we want to work and to compete for those guys, but also for the individuals who will be around here for the next couple years.”