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BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Can Jefferson keep up his torrid rushing pace? Can defense improve after bye week?

The bye weekend comes for Oregon State at an opportune time — smack dab in the middle of coach Jonathan Smith's first season.

It's a good time for a little rest after six weeks of game action, to allow some injuries to heal and give time for reflection about the first half.

• The biggest positive: Jermar Jefferson has emerged as the kind of tailback talent the Beavers have seen in recent years in the likes of Ken Simonton, Steven Jackson, Yvenson Bernard and Jacquizz Rodgers. And the 5-10, 210-pound true freshman from Harbor City, California, may become the best of them before he is through.

Jefferson, who ranks second nationally in yardage (865) and touchdowns (12) via the rush, is on pace to break Jackson's school single-season record for rushing yardage (1,690 in 2002) and Rodgers' mark for touchdowns (21 in 2009). But it would be no surprise if Jefferson failed to make those marks, for several reasons.

One, Oregon State's schedule is more difficult the second half of the season. The Beavers' final six opponents — in succession, California, Colorado, Southern Cal, Stanford, Washington and Oregon — own a collective 24-8 record.

Two, those teams' defenses will focus even more heavily on stopping the run and, in particular, Jefferson. Three, with the return of junior Artavis Pierce, Jefferson is likely to share the load much more the rest of the way with a veteran who lost his starting job to Jefferson due to an elbow injury.

Even so, Jefferson is the rare kind of weapon an offense can build around. What a gem of a recruit for Smith in his first season as the Beavers' boss.

• While Oregon State's passing game has been spotty, the Beavers have come up with three excellent receivers in senior Timmy Hernandez (32 catches for 371 yards), junior Trevon Bradford (24 for 263) and sophomore Isaiah Hodgins (23 for 362). Bradford and Hodgins have each missed a game due to injury.

• Let's give OSU's veteran offensive line some credit. They've done a nice job run-blocking through the season and have protected quarterbacks Conor Blount and Jake Luton reasonably well most of the time.

• Oregon State is averaging 31.5 points per game, fourth in the Pac-12 behind only Oregon (45.6), Washington State (41.8) and Colorado (37.8). The Beavers are second in the league in rushing average (211.8), behind only the Ducks (216.0). Nobody would have figured on that happening.

• The defense has been historically bad. The Beavers are yielding 47.0 points and 541.3 yards total offense per game, among the nation's worst figures in both categories. OSU is allowing 269.5 yards rushing and 271.8 yards passing per contest. Balance is good on offense; not so good on defense when you're giving up that kind of yardage.

Safety David Morris (foot) and defensive end Jeromy Reichner (knee), who have missed the first six games due to injury, have been missed. I expect Morris, a sophomore, to play the last four games of the season, thus preserving a redshirt year. Reichner, a transfer from Los Angeles Valley JC, is a two-for-two guy, so it would make sense they'll get him back in action as soon as possible.

Cornerback Jay Irvine was lost for the season after shoulder surgery, and another cornerback — sophomore Isaiah Dunn — has played only one game, though I'm not sure exactly why.

The nucleus of talent left on the defensive side is inexperienced and, at this point, ill-equipped to contain opposing offenses, especially in the run game. It's on D-coordinator Tim Tibesar to mix up schemes and develop his young players and see if improvements can be made the second half of the season.

• Oregon State also is last in the Pac-12 with only five sacks in six games. The Beavers simply aren't able to muster much pressure on an opposing quarterback. Because of a lack of depth in the D-line, Tibesar's basic defense is a 2-4-5 set-up with only two players D-linemen, four linebackers and five in the secondary. The theory: Go as often as you can with your best 11 players.

• Noah Togiai has had a star-crossed junior season. The 6-4, 245-pound tight end, coming off foot surgery, suffered a knee injury in the final scrimmage of training camp in Bend and missed the first three games. He has played the last three games but has caught only one pass, albeit four yards for a touchdown against Arizona State.

Togiai, who caught a team-high 34 passes last season, is too big a weapon to be used primarily as a blocker and/or decoy. O-coordinator Brian Lindgren needs to get him involved in the passing game the second half of the season.

• Kudos to the OSU coaches for emptying the playbook and going for broke against Washington State. When you're overmatched, throw caution to the wind — at least until it's blowing your way.

Even the onside kick attempt in the final minute with the game out of hand showed the Beavers were still clawing for everything they could get. It was a good sign.

• It's no stretch to say Mike Riley — the former OSU head coach working as an analyst for the Beavers this season — has been the program's best recruiter this year.

Three players recruited by Riley to Nebraska as the Cornhuskers' head coach have transferred to Oregon State — 6-3, 185-pound quarterback Tristan Gebbia' 6-1, 220-pound linebacker Avery Roberts, and 5-9, 200-pound receiver Tyjon Lindsey.

Lindsey, the latest addition, is a Las Vegas native who initially committed to Ohio State out of high school, when he was ranked by 24/7 Sports website as the 50th-best recruit in the country and the seventh-best receiver. He caught 12 passes for 76 yards as a true freshman at Nebraska last year.

Also transferring to Oregon State is 6-3, 240-pound defensive end Addison Gumbs from Oklahoma.

All four of the transfers were rated as four-stars out of high school.

It would be surprising if the Beavers don't add a pair of transfers, either from a JC or four-year school, to further beef up the D-line next year. It's the biggest need.

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