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Oregon State plays a 90-minute scrimmage at 10:30 a.m. Saturday; QBs Nolan, Gulbranson, Vidlak getting work done.

COURTESY PHOTO: KARL MAASDAM/OSU ATHLETICS - B.J. Baylor and others are working to replace Jermar Jefferson as Oregon State starting running back.The 2020 season had its bright spots for Oregon State, which beat Oregon and featured one of the Pac-12's best players, running back Jermar Jefferson.

It also had bad things, such as losing four games by 10 points or less and another game in a rout to Arizona State. Oh, and no fans watched them play at Reser Stadium.

The Beavers are working in spring ball to get better and improve on their 2-5 record, auditioning players to replace Jefferson (drafted into NFL last weekend by Detroit) as starting running back, putting young quarterbacks through their paces and looked forward to welcoming fans to Reser Stadium for the first time since 2019. (UPDATE: On Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority put Benton County in the "extreme risk" category, meaning no fans would be allowed to watch the scrimmage from the stands, but Gov. Kate Brown reportedly will be lifting coronavirus restrictions statewide, meaning fans will be allowed at Reser).

A 90-minute spring scrimmage will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 8, concluding the 15-practice spring football session. Fans in stands was welcome news to OSU coach Jonathan Smith, before the OHA stepped in

"I know it'll feel great to get back close to normalcy," he said last week. "No family member saw them play in the fall (2020) in the stadium." And, relatives also can greet players after the scrimmage.

The Beavers open the 2021 season at Purdue on Sept. 4.

Tristan Gebbia continues to mend from a torn hamstring and surgery, giving redshirt sophomore Chance Nolan, freshman Ben Gulbranson and true freshman Sam Vidlak plenty of reps at quarterback.

Nolan completed 50.5% of passes last season for 537 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions, and ran for 147 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and a score. Gulbranson played on the final series against Arizona State, completing 6 of 9 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown. Vidlak hails from Applegate, Oregon, and Hidden Valley High.

The offensive line has some returnees. B.J. Baylor figures to be the new starting running back, having backed up Jefferson for two years. But, Smith said he wants to develop a second back; among the candidates, Isaiah Newell (freshman, Walnut Creek, California) has been impressive. He's 6-1, 225 pounds.

"We're excited about where he's headed," Smith said. "He's a nice change of pace, a big back."

(And, of course, Jack Colletto, now playing mostly linebacker, remains an option in short-yardage situations).

The likes of receivers Trevon Bradford, Zeriah Beason and Tyjon Lindsey and tight ends Teagan Quitoriano and Luke Musgrave return. Smith said a new receiver who has impressed is 5-8, 150-pound freshman Silas Bolden from Rancho Cucamonga, California.

Isaac Hodgins and Evan Bennett are playing well on the defensive line, the deep linebacker corps has been thinner because of injuries to the likes of Avery Roberts — Colletto has been a standout — and Jaydon Grant and Akili Arnold are among the returnees in the secondary.

One player showing well at defensive back is Rejzhon Wright, a junior from East Palo Alto, California, the brother of Nahshon Wright, who the Dallas Cowboys picked in the third round of last week's NFL Draft.

The Beavers are trying to play faster on defense and "we've made strides defensively, individually and as a whole," Smith said.


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