The quarterback position is where it all starts in college football.
And Oregon State has a head start on the future with a pair of high school QBs who will be part of Jonathan Smith's first recruiting class.
Jake Dukart of Lake Oswego High and Spencer Petras of San Rafael, California, both say they will sign a letter-of-intent to play for the Beavers on Dec. 20.
Dukart and Petras — rated three stars by 247sports.com — each led his team to the state semifinals this season.
Both signal-callers committed to Oregon State before the season. After head coach Gary Andersen resigned in early October, both players took officials visits — Dukart to Nebraska, Petras to Iowa. But each says he is headed for Corvallis.
Dukart had a big game — 27 for 48 passing for 275 yards and three touchdowns — in Lake Oswego's 49-27 loss to South Medford in the Class 6A semifinals. The Lakers finished 11-2.
"It was an awesome season," Dukart says. "We had a good group of guys who worked hard to get to where we got. It sucked the way it ended, but I couldn't have asked for a better senior year."
The 6-2, 180-pound Dukart completed 165 of 293 passes (56.9 percent) for 2,656 yards and 27 touchdowns with five interceptions this season. The numbers could have been much greater. Dukart did not play in the second half of six games this season, with the Lakers comfortably ahead each time.
"It was a good year for me," Dukart says. "I kept getting better each week. I spent a lot of time in the (video) room. It made a big difference on Fridays, especially toward the end of the year when we were playing the best teams."
A year ago, Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury wasn't sure Dukart had what it takes to play quarterback at the FBS level. Now Coury is convinced.
"Jake had a special senior season," says Coury, whose tenure as head coach at Lake Oswego spans 26 years. "He was the reason we got to where we did. There were good players around him, but as the weeks went on, he got so much better. He played his best game (in the quarterfinals) against Jesuit. It made me think of Jake's future in college ball."
Through most of his childhood, Dukart was a baseball player first, a football player second.
"So much is ahead of him in his football career," Coury says. "He has never been just a football player."
After his junior year at Lake Oswego, Dukart — a shortstop and pitcher — verbally committed to play baseball at Arizona State. But then he began to veer toward the gridiron.
"Football is something I've loved since I was a little kid," Dukart says. "I grew up going to football games and dreaming of playing on Saturdays.
"I worked my butt off all winter, spring and summer and turned into a pretty good (football) player. I'm excited for my future in football."
That's going to happen at Oregon State. Dukart committed prior to the season. When Andersen resigned at midseason, Dukart wavered. He took the visit to Nebraska, but after meeting with Smith, he stayed firm.
"I'm still committed," Dukart says. "And I couldn't be happier with my decision. I'm ready to get down there come June to play some football."
Dukart took his official visit to Corvallis last weekend along with 10 other recruits — most of them commits.
"It was cool to meet those guys and have a picture of who I'm going to spend my next four or five years with," Dukart says.
Dukart also met with offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren and assistant head coach Mike Riley — ironically, the coach at Nebraska when he visited in October. Riley was fired in early December and subsequently hired by Smith.
"It was good to meet Coach Lindgren," Dukart says. "It was the first time for him seeing a lot of the stuff, too, so he went around and toured the campus with us. It was good to start a relationship with him.
"It's cool about Coach Riley. I couldn't be happier with that. What a great addition to the staff, to get his veteran mind-set, the maturity he brings with so many years as a coach. With Coach Smith, Coach Riley and Coach Lindgren, it's like three quarterback gurus. It's a great situation for me coming in as a quarterback."
There was discussion during the Andersen regime about Dukart possibly playing some defense at Oregon State. That won't happen — at least initially — under Smith.
"Coach Smith sees me as a quarterback capable of playing in the Pac-12 and winning games," Dukart says. "I couldn't be happier with that answer. I feel I'm going to be good enough, too."
So does Coury.
"Jake is a great athlete," the Lake Oswego mentor says. "He could play other positions. But I think he's a quarterback. He has the mind-set, the personality, plus the intangible things — all the things you need. He can make all the throws. He has real good feet. And he has that 'it' factor.
"Once he gets into a weight program and gets stronger and matures, you're going to have a really good player there."
Dukart and Petras both participated in Nike's "The Opening" regional event for high school quarterbacks last May in Oakland — before either had committed to OSU. Neither advanced to the "Elite 11" camp.
"Spencer is a good player," Dukart says. "Seems like a great kid with a good personality. He's big, strong, and can make any throw in the field. But I'm not scared of the competition with him. Everywhere you go, there's competition."
It's possible Dukart could eventually play baseball at Oregon State, "but I'm going there as a football player first," he says.
Dukart intends to sign on Dec. 20, but will not be an early enrollee at OSU.
"I'm going to stay at Lake Oswego and graduate in June," he says.
That gives him a chance to play his senior season of baseball with his brother Thomas, a sophomore who is an outfielder in baseball and a promising receiver/safety in football.
Dukart's mother, Nicole, and an uncle attended Oregon State.
"We're a big Beaver family," Jake says. "I've always followed the Beavers. I'd like to help get them back to where they were when Coach Smith was a player there. It's going to be great to play so close to home and have my family be part of something special that we're going to build in Corvallis."
Petras' prep career ended last Saturday with Marin Catholic's 40-27 loss to Shasta in the Northern California Division 3-AA semifinals at Redding. The Wildcats finished 12-1.
Petras completed 12 of 17 passes in the first half but finished 14 for 34 for 340 yards and three touchdowns. The numbers would have been better if not for several drops by receivers.
"That kid is going to have a hell of a college football career," Shasta coach J.C. Hunsaker told the Marin Independent Journal.
The Wildcats had beaten Cardinal Newman 59-56 in the quarterfinals.
"It was a fun season, no doubt," Petras says. "We had a great time. I'm disappointed we couldn't win the state championship, but there is a lot we have to be proud of."
The 6-5, 225-pound Petras had a sensational senior season, completing 199 of 313 passes (63.3 percent) for 4,157 yards and 50 TDs with two interceptions.
"I thought I played pretty well," Petras says. "I tend to judge myself by how the team does, but I was satisfied. I'd just have loved to have gone farther."
After Andersen left OSU, Petras and his father, Adam, scheduled a visit to Iowa for this past weekend.
"It was a byproduct of the coaching search taking a long time," Spencer says. "A quarterback is at the mercy of the offense the coach runs. I had to make sure I had options."
Smith — who had spoken wih Petras while working as offensive coordinator at Washington — visited the Petras home last Tuesday.
"It went great," Petras says. "It was good to learn about what his plan is and who he is going to name on the coaching staff. Also, to get to know him a little better as a coach and and a man.
"My visit to Iowa was good. It was really quick. I enjoyed Iowa City and everyone there. But I'm sticking with Oregon State."
Petras also took an unofficial visit to Nebraska, where he met with Riley, then Nebraska's coach.
"It's funny how things work like that," Petras says. "It's a cool coincidence.
"Coach Riley is one of the best human beings I've ever met — just an awesome guy. I love him as a man. It seems like he is a great coach. I was really interested in Nebraska, but it didn't work out there. I'm excited he is on the new staff at Oregon State."
Petras says he remembers talking to Dukart at "The Opening."
"We didn't talk a lot about Oregon State," Petras says. "I did talk to Coach Andersen about (Dukart). Wherever we go, there are going to be guys to compete with. Competition sharpens the sword and pushes everyone to be the best players they can be."
Petras will graduate from Marin Catholic early and enroll at OSU for winter term, allowing him to practice during spring ball.
"It's a great opportunity, especially at the quarterback position," Petras says. "It's important to get a jump start on learning the process. It's also bittersweet. There are a lot of great friends at home I'm going to miss. But it's a business decision, the best decision for my future."