The most obvious problem facing the Beavers in the upcoming season is trying to replace the massive hole that Brandin Cooks has left. The production will have to be found from multiple sources, but one of the most critical players will be tight end Caleb Smith.
The big tight end from Washington has been on the field since he was a true freshman and was not quite prepared at that time. Coach Riley gave him some playing time, but in the moments he was on the field he looked slow to react and he was kept on the sideline for the majority of the year.
He grew last year and without a back injury partway through the year he might have become even more dangerous, although he did peak in the Civil War with 5 receptions for 85 yards. He has the physical tools to be superb and he has started to put together the mental aspect.
What sets him apart is his ability to be involved in multiple parts of the route tree. He has the speed and enough quickness to be involved in screen passes, hopefully more often than Connor Hamlett who is not the most fleet of foot. Improved route running has also opened up intermediate patterns for Smith, as he was able to create separation as the year went. He is also fast enough to run a seam route, when the play pulls coverage away from him.
Size is also a plus for him (6' 6", 260 lb.) and he utilizes that strength in blocking, where he can help in screens or just in jumbo formations. That size also enables him to run through tackles, which makes him exceedingly difficult to bring down in the open field.
That versatility will be a weapon in an offense where pieces are constantly moving, especially at tight end. Smith will be a productive player for the Beavs this year, and as he continues to mature he will only get more dangerous. This is especially important for Oregon State, who needs multiple pass catchers to operate at maximum capacity. Caleb Smith is a player to keep an eye on next year, as it should be the best campaign of his young career.