A year ago at this time, Jonathan Smith was still in the process of hiring his coaching staff as well as trying to secure recruits who had committed to the previous regime.
But with a full year under his belt as Oregon State’s football coach, Smith said this year’s run up to Wednesday’s early signing period has been hectic, but he feels more confident about where the program will be after Wednesday.
“Where I’m standing now I feel way better than I did a year ago just because there was so much going on,” he said Monday afternoon.
Smith said he likes the new signing period in December, something that changed last year from having just one in February.
“Often times so many of these guys have been committed or built a long-term relationship,” Smith said. “If you think about if there wasn’t all you would be doing in January is trying to hold on to all these guys.”
Smith said the Beavers identified early the types of players they want and are hopeful those who have committed make it official on Wednesday.
“We want to get those guys in, we don’t want to give some of these other schools more time (if they) miss out on whoever they’re chasing nationally,” he said. “... So I think it’s good for us and I think it’s just good in general.”
While many of the players who have committed appear a lock to sign with the Beavers, it’s never a done deal until that letter of intent is received.
“You’re always nervous,” Smith said. “I feel like a lot of them we’ve told them from the get-go they fit us and they are who we want. It wasn’t like we just throw our offer in to get in the mix. That’s kind of the type of kid we’re looking for is someone who thoroughly looks at things and then commits and stays solid with us.”
The Beavers could have several in-state recruits sign on Wednesday.
“I think there’s players in this state,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that we pursued and got the best players in the state because I do think they fit us.”
The Beavers have plenty of positions to fill or to add depth after a 2-10 season.
While Smith would like to focus on building a program from the high school ranks, he knows there are times when going the junior college rout or taking other transfers is necessary.
If that is the case, Smith said he would prefer those they have three years eligibility remaining when they get to campus.
“The step up to the Pac-12 level is a big step so you need some time to, usually, develop into that,” Smith said. “Not to say we’re not going to sign a couple guys that have just two years, that’s going to happen. But I just don’t want to get half your class with just two years because all of a sudden you’re replacing them again.”
Smith said they Beavers will likely have a few more spots open for the February signing period so they will remain focused on those players as well as building relationships with some 2020 recruits after Wednesday.
Secondary coach Greg Burns has left the coaching staff to return to USC in the same capacity, the Trojans officially announced on Monday.
Smith said Burns’ family has been in the Los Angeles area and he is happy Burns gets a chance to return home.
“For him to have the opportunity to be back and see the family day to day I feel awesome for him,” Smith said. “Great guy, did a great job for us this year. I feel confident we’re going to be able to replace him.”
Smith said there is no timetable for a replacement but that there has been plenty of interest.
“Any time a guy leaves you really thoroughly look at that position, what’s that role entail, how can we improve,” Smith said. “So we’re taking our time doing that.”
Smith said it would be beneficial to find a coach with strong recruiting ties to the L.A. area but that’s not a prerequisite.
“Just looking for the guy who is an elite coach, elite person,” he said. “Low ego, high output. There’s a lot of good coaches out there, we’re getting a ton of calls on it.”
Quarterback Jake Luton has applied for a sixth year of eligibility after he missed the last eight games of the 2017 season with a thoracic spine fracture.
“I think he’s still back and forth on his decision on what he wants to do,” Smith said, adding that he would welcome Luton back if he chose to return. “He did some good things. Any time you can have a returning player, yeah.”
Cornerback Dwayne Williams and defensive end Lamone Williams have also filed paperwork for a sixth year of eligibility, Smith said.
Dwayne Williams announced on Twitter that if approved he will not return to the Beavers.