Smith's return home raises Oregon State's hopes

Mark Znidar
In this Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Washington State in Pullman, Wash. Oregon State's game against Washington in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, will be their first this season without starter Luton, who injured his back in against Washington State. [Young Kwak/The Associated Press]

The billboards around Corvallis bearing his picture welcoming him as the Oregon State football coach have embarrassed Jonathan Smith to no end. There even has been some ribbing at home.

“I’ve got a lot of people teasing me about that thing, starting with my family,” he said. “I’m kind of anxious for those things to come down.”

Smith, 39, is viewed as a potential savior to bring the Beavers back from the depths, but also as someone who won’t use the job as a steppingstone before moving on to supposed bigger and better things.

Predecessor Gary Andersen lasted 2½ seasons. He quit after starting 1-5 last season and is now associate head coach at Utah.

In 2014, Mike Riley bolted for Nebraska after 13 seasons. In ’07, Dennis Erickson walked for Arizona State after four seasons.

The latest new era begins when Oregon State plays Ohio State on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

Junior left offensive tackle Blake Brandel was excited when Smith was hired last November. Smith was a three-year starting quarterback, throwing for then team records of 9,680 yards and 55 touchdowns, and leading the team to an 11-1 record and 41-9 pasting of Notre Dame as a senior in the Fiesta Bowl.

“That’s just exciting to have someone who has gone to Oregon State and had success here,” Brandel said. “He wants us to get back to when we won the 2001 Fiesta Bowl. He has been focusing on mindset and that everything we do has a purpose.”

Brandel is an Oregon guy from Portland. He wore Beaver gear as a tot.

“My mom went to Oregon State and so did my aunt and uncle,” he said. “I always have been a Beaver wearing the black and orange. Now I’m here and it’s pretty exciting for me and my family.”

At his introductory news conference, Smith said, “It’s great to be home. Now I’m sitting here in front of you with my dream job in my dream town and at my dream school.”

Athletic director Scott Barnes has called Smith, “Incredibly authentic” and “someone who has got grit.”

Brandel has heard all about grit.

“It’s about bringing that grit and toughness to Oregon State,” he said. “We’ve been known as tough and gritty. Coach says to be an eighth-grader. Eighth-graders in our camp want to learn and be coached.”

With 24 true freshmen, 23 redshirt freshmen, nine sophomores and only 15 seniors, the Beavers will need a lot of coaching.

Smith refused to talk about a starting lineup during preseason.

“In college football you are seeing a lot more younger guys play,” he said.

What should the Buckeyes expect? Smith’s pass-heavy game plans as the offensive coordinator at Washington (2014-17), Boise State (2013), Montana (2010-11) and Idaho (2004-09) wore out defenses.

“I don’t want to give anything away, but we’ve got some tricks up our sleeves,” Brandel said.


Next game

Oregon State at Ohio State

When: Noon Saturday

TV: ABC (Channel 6)

Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)