By 750 The Game Staff
Simply being “interesting” won’t cut it for Jonathan Smith.
Still, it speaks to just how far Smith has taken his alma mater in the national landscape since his arrival in 2018.
ESPN senior college football writer Adam Rittenberg joined John Canzano on 750 The Game and said the Beavers are one of the sport’s most attention-worthy teams in 2023.
A new, dynamic quarterback, paired with Smith’s offensive acumen, a powerful run game, a stingy defense, and a 10-win foundation to build from all make OSU football worth watching to any college football fan this fall.
“Really one of the more interesting teams in the Pac-12, and all of college football,” Rittenberg said, pointing to the high potential of the Smith-DJ Uiagalelei partnership.
“I think people are learning about Jonathan Smith — your listeners already know a lot about him — but I think he’s gaining more and more respect around the country, which is such a great thing because he’s doing such a great job,” Rittenberg said.
The job Smith and his coaching staff have done so well includes getting maximum production from a roster that may not dazzle recruiting websites but ultimately finished No. 14 in the College Football Playoff rankings last year — one spot ahead of rival Oregon.
A ten-win season with Chance Nolan (3-2 in 5 games) and Ben Gulbranson (7-1 in 8 games) playing quarterback leaves OSU fans wondering just how high the ceiling can be with someone of Uiagalelei’s potential at the helm.
DJU has to win the job first. But the former five-star QB out of California brings with him plenty of intrigue.
“Obviously intrigued by DJ Uiagalelei, and whether they can find and unlock what can make him a difference-maker,” Rittenberg said, adding an upgrade at QB may be just the fix for a roster that loses a significant amount of production on defense and at receiver.
“They (OSU) had some great moments — 0bviously the win against Oregon. They lose some key players. Omar Speights is a big loss on defense. The receiver position was really banged up when I was out there this spring. They just lose a lot.”
Speights, last year’s leading tackler and defensive anchor at linebacker, transferred to LSU in the offseason. The defense also lost key secondary members in Jaydon Grant, Alex Austin, and Rejzhon Wright to the NFL.
Replacing that unit’s production will not be easy nor is it likely, making defensive coordinator Trent Bray another key figure in determining just how successful OSU’s run this season will be.
One thing is certain – the eyes of the college football world will be on Oregon State, and the Beavers won’t sneak up on anybody this year.
When was the last time Beaver Nation could say that?
Listen to the full interview with Adam Rittenberg with Canzano below.
John Canzano delivers the Bald Faced Truth afternoons 3-6 p.m. exclusively in Portland on 750 The Game.