Editor’s note: Third in a series previewing each team in the Pac-12.

Oregon State’s program continues to make strides under coach Jonathan Smith.

The Beavers finished the 2022 season with a 10-3 record and a No. 17 ranking in the final Associated Press poll. Before the 2021 campaign, they hadn’t experienced a winning season, or gone to a bowl game, since 2013. 

OSU posted a 7-6 record in 2021 and handed Pac-12 champion Utah its only conference setback that season. 

The Beavers followed that up with last year’s impressive campaign — the program’s best showing since 2000, when Smith was OSU’s quarterback under coach Dennis Erickson

During the spring, Smith has said, “Our expectations are high.” 

Yes, Oregon State could contend for the Pac-12 title. But the Beavers have been looking for an offensive upgrade. 

Months ago, they signed former Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, a 6-foot-4, 251-pounder from California. Uiagalelei, who replaced No. 1 NFL draft pick Trevor Lawrence, had his moments with the Tigers but the offense eventually sputtered and he lost his starting job. 

So why did he go from the East Coast to the West Coast?

“I didn’t want to do what I was doing at Clemson. I didn’t really like what we did there scheme-wise. I didn’t think we did very much,” Uiagalelei told The Athletic. “I thought it was very basic. It didn’t help me out as a quarterback and play to my strengths.

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“I wanted to go somewhere that would play to my strengths and go somewhere that would develop me for the NFL. Play-action, work under center, throw the ball deep.”

Uiagalelei signed with Oregon State without visiting Corvallis first. But he loved Smith’s offense. 

“I wanted to go somewhere where the scheme is going to fit me,” Uiagalelei told ESPN. “I wanted to go somewhere where they’re going to let me be who I am as a player, let me play free, and let me go out there and just cut it loose. Just somewhere where I can do what I wanted to do.”

Smith has appreciated Uigalelei’s approach.

“He’s been great, early on not trying to be showy or the face of the program from the get-go, but just fitting in with the guys,” he told ESPN. “He’s in this building every day, trying to digest. This is a new system. It’s drastically different from what he was doing, so it’s taken him reps to get comfortable with the calls, changing the play at the line of scrimmage, reading the signal, protections. From Day 1 to where he’s at now, it’s night and day.”

At OSU, Uiagalelei is battling with returning starter Ben Gulbranson, who posted a 7-1 record as the starter, and freshman Aidan Chiles. 

The Beavers return four starting offensive linemen in front of Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year Damien Martinez, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Running backs DeShaun Fenwick and Jam Griffin also return. 

Tight ends Jermaine Terry II, a California transfer, and Jake Overman give OSU weapons at that position. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Oregon State led the league in total defense, allowing 332.8 yards per game. That’s four years after the Beavers were the Pac-12’s worst defensive team. 

Returning is first-team All-Pac-12 safety Kitan Oladapo. While OSU saw cornerbacks Rejzohn Wright and Alex Austin go to the NFL, Omar Speights, who led the team in tackles, transferred to Louisiana State.

But the Beavers did add Wyoming linebacker Oluwaseyi Omotosho. 

2022 record: 10-3 (6-3 Pac-12).

Utah ties

  • LB Kord Shaw (Bonneville HS).
  • OL Heneli Bloomfield (Jordan HS).
  • DL Omarion Fa’amoe (West HS).
  • TE Riley Sharp (Skyline HS).

2023 schedule

  • Sept. 3 @San Jose State.
  • Sept. 9 UC Davis.
  • Sept. 16 San Diego State.
  • Sept. 23 @Washington State.
  • Sept. 29 Utah.
  • Oct. 7  @California.
  • Oct. 14 UCLA.
  • Oct. 28 @ Arizona.
  • Nov. 4 @Colorado.
  • Nov. 11 Stanford.
  • Nov. 18 Washington.
  • Nov. 24 @Oregon.
Oregon State’s Damien Martinez rushes against Washington State Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Corvallis, Ore. Martinez was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after averaging more than 6 yards per carry in 2022. | Mark Ylen, Associated Press