There’s a big question hanging over Oregon State football and it’s not pandemic related. The question is this: “How will Oregon State replace Isaiah Hodgins & Blake Brandel?”
The Beavers had three players drafted by the NFL last season (Jake Luton, Hodgins & Brandel). Replacing those three guys will be no easy task. There’s little doubt amongst Beaver fans that Tristian Gebbia will be the starting quarterback for the Beavers this season. He pushed Jake Luton for the starting job and performed well against Oregon in a tough situation. The answers to who will replace Hodgins and Brandel are much more ambiguous though and will shape how successful the Beavers are in 2020.
Let’s start with Isaiah Hodgins. The 6-foot-4 pass catcher was a receiving monster last season. As Jake Luton’s go to target he accounted for about 40% of the Beavers receiving yards and touchdowns (1171 yards & 13 TDs). If you add in tight end Noah Togiai (in the NFL with the Colts). Well over half of Oregon State’s pass-catching production is gone from last season.
First the good news. The Beavers have a bunch of talented wide receivers on the roster. Trevon Bradford, Champ Flemings, Tyjon Lindsey, Kolby Taylor, Anthony Gould and Jesiah Irish all have game experience. Also, Zeriah Beason is drawing rave reviews in fall camp as a true freshman.
The bad news? All of the WRs listed above are well (to put it bluntly) short. And I mean short/small in a college football sense. That’s not a death sentence by any means, they are all extremely quick, fast and talented. But it sure would help Gebbia if he had a tall target on the outside or near the end zone.
The ideal replacement for Isaiah Hodgins would be Florida State transfer Tre’Shaun Harrison (6-foot-2), but unfortunately there has been no update on his eligibility from the NCAA. He applied for a waiver and is still awaiting word. If Harrison isn’t given the greenlight then it’ll be a group effort. The tight ends will become much more important, especially near the goal line. I expect a bunch of Oregon State receivers to average around 30-50 yards per game, but its hard for me to imagine the Beavers having one truly dominant pass-catcher this season and that could slow the offense.
The next big question is replacing Blake Brandel. The former OSU left-tackle started 48 consecutive games for the Beavs. That’s crazy and leaves a huge hole on the Beavers offensive line. Another issue for Oregon State is the loss of Gus Lavaka to graduation. Especially since the favorite to be his replacement at left guard opted out for the 2020 season.
Early reports from fall camp have Brandon Kipper at right tackle and Joshua Gray at left tackle. Joshua Gray will have big shoes to fill to protect Tristian Gebbia’s blindside. The offensive line is looking to replace three starters overall. The remaining three spots on the offensive line will go to some combination of: Nathan Eldridge, Nous Keobounnam, Korbin Sorensen and Keli’l Montibon.
Personally I’m more worried about replacing Hodgins than Brandel. Joshua Gray should be able to fill in admirably. Depth is an issue for the offensive line, but if they remain healthy Jermar Jefferson should have plenty of running lanes. And while there is a bunch of pass-catchers for Gebbia to throw too; there isn’t that big target on the outside that Isaiah Hodgins provided last season.
With all the personnel changes I expect the Beavers to take a step back on offense in 2020. How big of a step back will be based on how the team can replace Hodgins & Brandel. Fortunately for Oregon State they are poised to have their best defensive team in at least 6 seasons. Even if the offense struggles at times the Beavers could be a better team than they were last season. I’m excited to see the new pieces on the field on November 7th. Is it football time yet?