Oregon State has questions at quarterback.
The Beavers have three solid options at the position heading into the season — a problem any team would welcome.
First, there's Tristan Gebbia, a former Nebraska transfer who started last season but suffered a serious hamstring injury against rival Oregon in November that required surgery.
Chance Nolan stepped in admirably when Gebbia was injured last season, starting the team's final three games.
And there's Sam Noyer, who transferred from Colorado this summer. As the Buffaloes' starter last season, he threw for 1,101 yards and six touchdowns in six games.
All three are battling in camp for the Beavers' starting nod.
“The cream rises to the top when you have that type of competition in August, but also it adds to our depth as the season goes,” coach Jonathan Smith said.
The logjam of quarterbacks bodes well for the Beavers as they head into Smith's fourth season as head coach.
Oregon State went just 2-5 last season but one of those wins was against rival Oregon, a morale booster. Three of the losses were close.
Smith said the Beavers have closed the gap in the years he's been coach. But Oregon State is still looking for the bowl berth that has eluded the team since 2013.
“We know we’ve made huge strides, we’re confident in what we’ve got as a program,” Smith said. “But we know we have work to do to be able to get over that hump and win all these games that are really close.”
The Beavers were picked in the preseason to finish fifth in the Pac-12 North, ahead of Washington State.
Oregon State lost prolific running back Jermar Jefferson, who opted to forgo his senior season and was a seventh-round pick by Detroit in this year’s NFL draft. Despite last season's short schedule, Jefferson rushed for 858 yards and six touchdowns in six games.
Deshaun Fenwick, a transfer from South Carolina, could step into Jefferson's shoes on the offense, as could last season's backup, B.J. Baylor.
Defensive back Nahshon Wright also decided to go pro and was a third-round pick in the draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
JAYDON STEPS UP
Defensive back Jaydon Grant is excited about what the Beavers hope is an improved defense. Oregon State's D struggled last season, ranked 10th in the Pac-12 with an average of 442.8 total yards allowed per game and 34.3 points.
Grant, a junior who had 29 tackles and two interceptions last season, is among the leaders on the defense, joining linebackers Avery Roberts and Omar Speights and defensive tackle Isaac Hodgins.
“I think that this is definitely the best place that we’ve been in since I’ve been here. We return our staff for the fourth straight year, which is obviously a big year for this program. And we have a lot of returning guys, especially on defense, and on offense as well," Grant said. "So you talk about the camaraderie of the team, the leadership. We have so many different leaders. We have about 20, 25 guys that all the young guys can turn to as leaders on this team. So that really helps a lot.”
Smith said at Pac-12 media day that 86% of the team is vaccinated. He is, too.
“Really proud of where we’re at as a team, percentage of vaccinations,” he said. “These guys buying into that idea, not just for themselves, but for others.”
Oregon State requires students to be vaccinated, but allows some exemptions. The Beavers fared well last season in handling the virus, getting in all seven of their games.
The Beavers open the season at Purdue on Sept. 4 before returning home for a game against Hawaii.
Oregon State recently announced that it would require masks at Reser Stadium throughout September because of local regulations in Benton County, where COVID-19 cases are surging. The county requires masks when distancing isn't possible, even at outdoor events.
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