Freshmen Jesiah Irish and Jermar Jefferson aren’t household names just yet, but both showed Saturday they have the potential to make a big impact for the Oregon State football program.
Irish, a 5-foot-11, 176-pound receiver, and Jefferson, a 5-10, 210-pound running back, each scored a pair of touchdowns in the Beavers’ open scrimmage at Reser Stadium.
“Jesiah had a great day,” senior quarterback Jake Luton said. “I think he might have been the MVP of the day. He played really, really well.”
Irish made a sensational grab on a Jake Colletto pass for a 43-yard score on a corner route. Later he scored on a 25-yard pass from Aidan Willard.
Jefferson, who has had a solid fall camp, burst through the left side and outran the defense for a 69-yard score to highlight his day.
“They flashed,” first-year coach Jonathan Smith said. “Jesiah has been doing it the past few days, catching some deep balls. You know he’s not just a deep threat, he caught some underneath balls and that was good.
“And Jemar can run the ball. I think he’s a natural running back, he has some patience back there and physicality. And Kase (Rogers) had some good carries, too. Those guys are coming.”
As to be expected, both sides had their share of big plays, and can now see areas they need to improve at as they continue to build toward the Sept. 1 season opener at perennial power Ohio State.
“In camp, the back and forth, you want to see one side doing things and (then) the other side,” Smith said after the Beavers’ eighth practice that consisted mostly of live scrimmaging. “But for the most part both sides did some really good things. We’ve got a ton to clean up and I’m anxious to watch this tape and go through it with the guys.”
Smith and several players said it was good that both sides made some big plays.
“For us to have our best chance we’ve got to have both sides operating and really both sides picking each other up because it’s not always going to go perfect,” he said. “So we’ve got to be able to respond with the other side of the ball.”
Added junior linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray: “I shouldn’t say I’m happy with what the offense did but it’s good to see they’re out there and locking in, they’re making plays, they’re connecting. … With a day like today, I expect both sides to make plays and that’s what I think both sides did.”
Luton, in the battle for the starting quarterback position, said Saturday was fun and a good chance to get a feel for what’s to come in four short weeks.
“I think that’s important to get some reps out here doing that stuff and get the quarterbacks out here going live so we have a threat,” Luton said. “We’re trying to get the ball out and it’s more game like and I think that really shows up on film and is helpful.”
Luton, who missed the last eight games last season with an injury, admitted he didn't love possibly being hit bit that it didn't bother him.
He was asked if anyone on the defense scared him.
"No, nobody,” Luton said as he looked over at Hughes-Murray. "Nobody scares me on defense."
Later, Hughes-Murray had a chance to respond.
"When I see Jake out there with the orange jersey on you know I’m coming for him," he said with a smile. "It’s just another little incentive. There’s not very many times we can even blow on these dudes now."
On a serious note, the film of the scrimmage will provide coaches and players with plenty of crucial information as the staff continues to evaluate who will be in the starting lineup.
“There’s a lot of things we did good, there’s a lot of things we have to go out there and learn from,” Hughes-Murray said. “There’s a lot of good film, we had a lot of reps, a lot of plays today so this is just a chance to go in, watch film and just learn from mistakes and make adjustments.”
With no clear cut starter yet, quarterbacks Luton, Connor Blount and Colletto got the bulk of the workload as the staff continues to evaluate that crucial position.
“I thought it went well,” Luton said. “Offensively I thought we played pretty well, we were pretty consistent. I would like to make a few more big plays here and there but I think we hit enough for one day, enough big plays to really think there were some positives and I think we were consistent.”
Smith said all three had their good and bad moments.
“I think each of them did some good things for sure,” he said. “Consistency of play is something we need to work on. I think each of them had a play or two they’d like back but I thought all three of them did some good things. Shoot, Aidan had a good play there at the end. It was nice to see.”
Luton hit the first big play of the day, connecting with Timmy Hernandez for a long pass play that set up a field goal.
“It’s always good to start the day on a note like that,” Luton said. “Timmy ran a great route and I knew I had the right look over there, it was just up to Timmy to create some separation. I put the ball on him and he made a great play.”
Luton started slowly in fall camp but has appeared to be more comfortable the past few days.
“I’ve just been trying to do what I can and come out here every day and just do my best and things have been going pretty well and hopefully they will continue to go well,” he said.
Hughes-Murray knows that while there are plenty of areas for improvement, the Beavers are headed in the right direction defensively.
“I think we’re coming along good,” he said. “We’ve got to take some major steps in the right direction but I think we are a lot better than we have been in the past so we just have to keep on this track. I think we’ll keep getting better and stuff like that. I’m really happy with how today went but I think there are a lot of areas we can improve on.”