Pac-12 previews: Oregon State finally had a winning season in 2021, so what’s next for the Beavers?
OSU finished with a 7-6 record and played in a bowl game for the first time since 2013
Editor’s note: Third in a series of articles examining each of the Pac-12 football teams heading into the 2022 season.
Before last season, Oregon State hadn’t had a winning season, or gone to a bowl game since 2013.
That changed in 2021, as the Beavers finished with a 7-6 record and played in a bowl game — a loss to Utah State in the L.A. Bowl.
On top of that, Oregon State handed Pac-12 champion Utah its only conference loss last season, a wild 42-35 shootout victory in Corvallis.
Before the annual rivalry game against Oregon, coach Jonathan Smith signed a new contract that carries him through the 2027 season.
“Coach (Jonathan) Smith has led the resurgence of our football program in a way that has made all of Beaver Nation proud,” said athletic director Scott Barnes. “Their steady growth, improvement and success on the field, in the classroom and the community is apparent. A strong foundation has been laid for success and the future of Beaver football is bright due to coach Smith’s leadership.”
OSU finished No. 19 nationally rushing last season, gaining 260 on the ground against the Utes.
The Beavers ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in total yards and scoring a year ago.
Smith, who’s entering his fifth season at the helm, is rebuilding the offensive line because the Beavers need to replace center Nathan Eldridge and guard Nous Keobounnam.
“What we return on the offensive line, the athleticism, the veterans in that group, they’ve had a great spring,” Smith told the Pac-12 Network. “It starts up front and we feel we have a good group of O-linemen.”
Also gone is running back B.J. Baylor, who rushed for 1,337 yards, No. 16 in the nation. DeShaun Fenwick, who ran for just under 450 yards, is expected to replace Baylor. Freshman running back Damien Martinez should also see a lot of playing time.
Quarterback Chance Nolan threw for 2,677 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last year. He’s battling for the starting job with Tristan Gebbia, who started in 2020, and redshirt freshman Ben Gulbranson.
“And I think that’s healthy for Chance to know that he’s got two guys on his heels,” Smith told The Athletic. “There’s plenty that Chance wants to take a step up in his game and improve on, which he emphasized during the spring — his command has really grown since he’s started. He wants to be more accurate on the deep ball down the field. I think we had some examples of that this spring. I think all three guys we can win some games with and score points. We’re just going to decide a few weeks into camp who gives us the best chance to do that.”
Defensively, OSU has a new coordinator in Trent Bray and needs to replace linebacker Avery Roberts. The strength of the Beaver defensive is expected to be the secondary with safeties Jaydon Grant, Ron Hardge III, Wynston Russell and cornerbacks Alton Julian and Reizohn Wright.
2021 record: 7-6 (5-4 Pac-12).
LB Riley Sharp (Skyline HS).
DL Omarion Fa’amoe (West HS).
Sept. 3 Boise State
Sept. 10 @ Fresno State
Sept. 17 Montana State
Sept. 24 USC
Oct. 1 @ Utah
Oct. 8 @ Stanford
Oct. 15 @ Washington State
Oct. 22 Colorado
Nov. 4 @ Washington
Nov. 12 California
Nov. 19 @ Arizona State
Nov. 26 Oregon
Next up: Stanford