We got a chance to chat with Ryan Priest from UWDawgPound.com about Oregon State hiring away their offensive coordinator. Here are his thoughts on the move.
-What were your first thoughts when you heard Jonathan Smith was taking the OSU job?
At the risk of sounding cheesy, my first thought was "good for him." Despite calling plays for an offense that broke all sorts of program records in 2016, Jonathan Smith has earned more than his share of detractors during his time at Washington, and I'm just plain happy to see a guy like him get a chance to return to his alma mater and lead them back to success. On the other hand, I'd be lying if I told you that I 100 percent believe that he's the right guy for the job. Despite his immaculate OSU pedigree, this is Smith's first head coaching gig, and without putting too fine a point on it, the challenges he faces in rebuilding the Beavers' downtrodden program could cause even the most talented and proven head coach to stumble.
-What is Smith's offensive philosophy?
This is a difficult question to answer, because Washington's offense isn't so much Jonathan Smith's brainchild as it is Jonathan Smith executing Chris Petersen's brainchild. Assuming that he runs a similar scheme in Corvallis, though, Beaver fans should look forward to a balanced, pro-style attack (with a slight emphasis on running over passing) that utilizes a great variety of shifts and motions to isolate weak links in opposing defenses. During his time at Washington, this philosophy was most clearly on display in 2016, when Smith would put John Ross in motion to gain a favorable matchup against a safety or (God help him) a linebacker. If the defense adjusted accordingly, Smith gave Jake Browning the latitude to target a different receiver (usually Dante Pettis) or audible into a run play, usually to the benefit of Myles Gaskin.
-What can you tell us about Smith as a recruiter?
As Washington's quarterbacks coach, Smith (alongside Petersen, of course) has been responsible for sealing the deal on UW's quarterback prospects since 2014. In that respect, it's been a mixed bag for Smith: While you can't deny the role he has played in recruiting and developing Jake Browning into one of the program's all-time great signal callers, the Huskies have brought in precious few blue-chip prospects at the position during his time on staff. It bears noting that Washington's QB commits for the 2018 class include a pair of four-star players in Jacob Sirmon and Colson Yankoff, but among players signed with the Huskies, Browning's backups have included K.J. Carta-Samuels (the No. 12 quarterback recruit in 2014), JUCO prospect Tony Rodriguez in 2015, Daniel Bridge-Gadd (No. 47 in 2016), and Jake Haener (No. 25 in 2017). Now, it makes sense that recruiting five-star talents like Jacob Eason in 2016 would be a tough proposition with an established starter like Browning already in place, but nothing we've seen from Smith suggests he has any sort of killer instinct as a recruiter that's going to immediately translate to big wins for the Beavers, especially with the new early signing day that will be a factor later this month.
-Do you expect any current UW staffers to join Smith?
This is the $64,000 question for UW fans right now. Common sense dictates that at least one or two of Washington's assistants will follow Smith to Corvallis, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. On the other hand, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has coached alongside Petersen in that role for eight years now and seems unlikely to leave; and secondary coach Jimmy Lake seems destined for a high-profile coordinating gig at a more established program than Oregon State. It seems to me that the wildcards are linebackers coach Bob Gregory and defensive line coach Ikaika Malloe: If there's the possibility for either of them (Gregory in particular) to earn a full-fledged defensive coordinator role and salary, Washington might be hard-pressed to retain their services.
-Is there anything else our readers should know?
The Oregon State fan base is already familiar with Smith's incredible accomplishments as a walk-on player for the Beavers, and its clear that he's grown considerably as a coach under the tutelage of Chris Petersen. While the rebuilding project at Oregon State will be a difficult one, the Beavers have hired a smart, capable man for the job. Like any first-time head coach, there will be moments when Beavers fans will want to tear their hair out, and Smith quite frankly won't have the player talent at Oregon State to cover for some of his shortcomings the way he did at Washington. With that in mind, though, it's worth remembering that Smith is a bright offensive mind who has spent the last five years working under the tutelage of one of the best head coaches in the business. I, and many other Huskies fans, will watch the Smith era at Oregon State with great interest.