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Arizona football opponent preview: Oregon State

What to expect from the Beavers in Week 4

Oregon State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats will travel to Corvallis in Week 4 to take on the Oregon State Beavers. Before we get there, let’s get to know what OSU brings to the table.

Introduction

Gary Andersen is out (or was out after six games in 2017) and Jonathan Smith is in as head coach. The Beavers are coming off one of the worst seasons in school history and look to Smith to return the program to respectability. Granted, they were only one season removed from a horrendous 2-10 2015 season, but they still found a way to regress.

In fact, over the last three seasons, OSU has won a total of seven games. They were competitive at times but overall it’s just been tough to watch, unless your team was playing them.

Smith comes from Pac-12 North foe in the University of Washington where he served as the Huskies’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the past four seasons. He has experienced quite a bit of success during his time in Seattle which is exactly what the Beavers must rely on to turn it around.

The Rundown

  • Returning Starters: 7 offense, 8 defense
  • 2017 Record: 1-11
  • Head coach: Jonathan Smith (first season)

The Stats

The following metrics are courtesy of Bill Connelly of SB Nation and Football Outsiders. You can read more about the rankings and theory behind them here.

  • 2017 S&P+ Overall: 127th
  • 2017 S&P+ Offense: 103rd
  • 2017 S&P+ Defense: 127th
  • 2018 S&P+ Projection: 110th
  • 2018 Projected Record: 3-9

2017 Recap

There’s no other way to put it, the 2017 season was a forgettable one. I’ve touched on OSU’s woes as it’s obvious there were many in a 1-11 12 game stretch. However, let’s take a moment to focus on the bright spot from last year. There were a lot of young players who played quality minutes last season, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.

Offensive Outlook

Senior quarterback Jake Luton, thae former Junior College All-American, has recovered from a back injury and is expected to be ready for week one. The Beavers return their leading receiver in Noah Togiai and second leading rusher in Artavis Pierce. Other than these two, there is plenty of room for skill players to carve out roles in the offense.

The offensive line will be a strength. Center Sumner Houston is the leader of the line. He is one year removed from playing on the defensive line. Last season he played in all 12 games and started 11 on the offensive line. Guard Gus Lavaka is riding a 13-game start streak and left tackle Blake Brandel started every game at the position for OSU last season. Kammy Delp and Trent Moore played in 12 and 11 games, respectively.

Defensive Outlook

Redshirt senior Jonathan Willis is the star of the defense. Beyond him, a few other names to keep an eye on for linebacker rotations are fellow upperclassmen Landry Payne, Shemar Smith, Adam Soesman and Andrzej Hughes-Murray.

The defensive line wishes they could rely on upperclassmen as well but it be much of an option. The ends and tackles are constructed primarily of freshmen and sophomores. However, the juniors and seniors that will be relied heavily upon are Kalani Vakameilalo, Elu Aydon and Lamone Williams.

The secondary suffered many key injuries last season including Xavier Crawford and Dwayne Williams to name a few. These injuries allowed for underclassmen to step in and gain some invaluable experience.

True freshmen safety David Morris and cornerback Isaiah Dunn were able to start seven and five games, respectively. Redshirt sophomores cornerback Jay Irvine and safety Jalen Moore appeared in 11 and 12 games, respectively. As a whole, this is a very young returning group that saw quite a bit valuable action last season.

3 Players to Watch

Artavis Pierce, RB

The junior running back has appeared in 23 of the Beavers’ 24 games in the last two seasons. He is the leading returning rusher from 2017 (846 yards) and also has the ability to flash as a kick returner where he averaged 20 yards on 27 attempts.

Noah Togiai, TE

He returns as OSU’s leader in receptions (48) and receiving yards (565) from 2017 and has an impressive 11.8 yards per catch for his career. The redshirt junior was also named to the AP’s All Pac-12 Second Team last season. Whoever ends up winning the starting job under center will have a reliable target in Togiai.

Jonathan Willis, LB

The inside linebacker enters 2018 with a 36 consecutive game appearance streak. The redshirt senior has appeared in every game since week one of the 2015 season. Willis wears the number 32 like another former OSU LB great. He has recorded 161 tackles thus far for the Beavers and is easily one the team’s biggest leaders.