During Pac-12 Media Day, the Oregon State Beavers gave a glimpse into what to expect in 2022.
Head coach Jonathan Smith took to the podium in Los Angeles on Friday to speak with reporters about the upcoming season. Here are some of the takeaways from his comments at Media Day.
Beavers looking to ride the momentum
Oregon State is coming off one of its best seasons in the past decade, though there is still plenty of room for improvement. The Beavers earned seven wins and made it to a bowl game for the first time since 2013. However, after winning five of the first seven games before going 2-4 down the stretch, Smith hopes the team will have a better finish this year.
"We didn't finish the way we wanted to finish," he admitted. "This year is an opportunity to improve on that."
That said, Smith also understands that, in football, previous success does not guarantee future results.
"There's nothing guaranteed [that] just because we did such and such last year, it affects the next year," Smith conceded. "Each year you got to come in and grow, develop, compete. I feel like we got a mature roster that's all about doing that. Now we got to go prove it and show it each Saturday."
Still, there is no doubt that Smith — a four-year starting quarterback in Corvallis who guided OSU to a No. 4 AP ranking during the 2000 season — is looking to continue the Beavers' upward trend.
"We're continuing to rise," said the coach. "We're not going anywhere."
The Pac-12 media appears to agree that the Beavers are on the upswing. Oregon State was picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 preseason media poll that was released Thursday.
Offensive positions may be up for grabs
While there is still plenty of time for players to change his mind on the practice field, Smith gave a few early indications about two of the most important offensive positions: quarterback and running back.
At quarterback, Smith noted that last year's starter, Chance Nolan, earned the job and will look to him to reprise that role in 2022.
"I thought he improved from his first year to this last year," Smith said of Nolan, who will be a redshirt junior this season. "Now, he's headed into Year 3. We're counting on him taking the next step into being a three-year starting quarterback."
However, he quickly opened the possibility of a position battle in the team's upcoming training camp. Along with Nolan, the Beavers bring back 2020 starter Tristan Gebbia, who missed all of last season recuperating from an injury.
"What I love about Chance is how competitive he is... I do feel like we've got a couple guys in the quarterback room that are going to push him to make him even better.— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) July 29, 2022
??: @Coach_Smith | @76 pic.twitter.com/Wb3bzfMaUb
"He was playing his best football before he took a serious injury the previous year," Smith added of Gebbia. "Chance ran with things this last year. Tristan is back and healthy now. Anxious to see those two go after it."
As for running back, expect that to be a committee. Last season, BJ Baylor led the Pac-12 with 1,337 rushing yards. While Smith is happy with the talent in his running back room, it does not seem as though any one player will get as large a share of the carries as Baylor did a year ago.
"Majority of the time, we are trying to have multiple backs carry the ball just from game 1 to game 12," Smith explained, adding that running backs go through a lot of wear and tear during the season.
Deshaun Fenwick looks to be the closest thing the team will have to a feature back, with Trey Lowe lining up as more versatile change-of-pace option. Smith also noted true freshman Damien Martinez, who turned heads with a solid performance in the team's spring game.
"Deshaun Fenwick carried the ball for us quite a bit last year, had a good year," Smith said. "Trey Lowe is back as well. Both those guys have an opportunity to kind of be the mainstay at running back for us."
Smith not providing any bulletin board material
In recent weeks, news came down that UCLA and USC will be leaving the Pac-12 in the next few years — and with that, a thunderstorm of rumors about the rest of the league's fate. One such rumor holds that Oregon State will eventually settle into a new home in the Mountain West.
While those decisions are still very much in the offing, Smith can rest easy knowing he didn't provide any new bulletin board material to the teams in that league.
"You look at, in general, the Mountain West Conference, how competitive they were, winning games," Smith began, responding to a question about improving the OSU's program trajectory as other schools in the West are finding success. "Got a bunch of respect for those coaches and players in that league."
Smith specifically mentioned the sustained success of Boise State — where he served as quarterbacks coach for two years —in his comments, as well as Fresno State and the close relationship he has with Bulldog head coach Jeff Tedford and quarterback Jake Haener. He even threw a little love toward the Big Sky Conference, where he spent two seasons as offensive coordinator at Montana.
Notably, OSU opens the season with games against Boise State, Fresno State and Montana State.
"We got a bunch of respect for anyone on our schedule or anyone in the region," he concluded.
Whether or not the Beavers ever become bedfellows with these teams and/or conferences remains to be seen. However, if such a move does happen, Smith certainly didn't make any enemies with his comments at Pac-12 Media Day.
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