Before each week's Ohio State game, Eleven Warriors catches up with media members who cover the opposing team to get their perspective on the Buckeyes' upcoming opponent.
For our season-opening edition of Across The Field, we caught up with Nick Daschel, who covers Oregon State for The Oregonian, to get his perspective on the Beavers, who are traveling to Columbus to play the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on Saturday (12:07 p.m., ABC).
The Beavers are coming off a 1-11 season in 2017, when they failed to win a single game against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent (their only win came against Portland State, an FCS team), but enter the new season with a new head coach in Jonathan Smith, who brought in a brand new coaching staff around him.
What went wrong in Corvallis last season, what are the expectations like entering this season and who are some of the players we need to keep an eye on in Saturday's game? Daschel answers those questions for us and more.
Q: Oregon State only won one game last season, and that win came against an FCS opponent. What went so wrong last season that led to such a tough year?
Daschel: Obviously the coaching situation led to much of the problems. Gary Andersen was a disaster as a head coach, and the staff didn’t get along. It bled down to the roster, which wasn’t great to begin with. Throw in losing quarterback Jake Luton for the season during Week 4, and a defense that couldn’t produce takeaways or put pressure on the opposing quarterback, and it was a recipe for a terrible season.
Q: What's the mood like in Corvallis entering this season? Are the Beavers confident they are back on the right track?
Daschel: Not much is expected. There isn’t a great buzz at the moment, in part because expectations are low for 2018. On the right track? That’s hard to say without having played a single game. Jonathan Smith has put together what appears to be a good, young coaching staff, there’s a lot of enthusiasm among the players, and the Beavers are making some in-roads on the recruiting trail.
Q: Who are some of the players that Ohio State and its fans should know about entering this game? Any players who you expect to be breakout stars this season?
Daschel: Offensively, Jake Luton is a 6-7 quarterback who has a nice arm but isn’t going to threaten any defense with his feet. Running back Artavis Pierce runs hard between the tackles, and there’s reason to believe he’ll run behind an improved offensive line. Receiver Isaiah Hodgins is the team’s most likely NFL prospect. Defensively, there are no obvious stars, but watch for the trio of outside linebackers Kee Whetzel, Hamilcar Rashed Jr. and Andrzej Hughes-Murray to see if they can rev up OSU’s pass rush. Nine true freshmen are listed on this week’s depth chart; two that could catch your eye are running back Jermar Jefferson and tight end Isaiah Smalls.
Q: With a brand new coaching staff leading the way, what do you expect Oregon State's offense and defense to look like this season?
Daschel: The Beavers say they want to be multiple on offense, which is to say, who knows what they’ll look like. My sense is that Oregon State will try to run the ball, as the offensive line has some promise and the running backs are good to above average. Luton has been very accurate with deep balls during practice. Defensively, former Wisconsin linebackers coach Tim Tibesar is the DC. The base defense is a 3-4, but it’s possible the Beavers could go 2-4-5 depending on the health of the secondary.
Q: Given the season that Oregon State had last year, what do you think would you be considered a successful outcome in this game? What do the Beavers need to do to show they have made progress?
Daschel: It’s folly to put a win-loss expectation on this season, as the Beavers are starting over. It’s not a terrible roster for a rebuilding job, but definitely the Pac-12’s worst. A reasonable expectation is that the Beavers are competitive in most games – Ohio State would not be one of those games – and that a couple of those efforts turn into wins. More important is that Oregon State looks like a better team in November than September.