Note, this was primarily written after Cal, but updated slightly following the win against UO
Hard to believe we’re here already. Here’s a quick look at my mid season grades, as we’ve crested the halfway point of this unusual season.
Let’s start with Coach Tibesar’s new (and improved?) Defense:
Defensive Line: C
We knew going into the season there were questions in this group, while there have been moments that make you sit back and go “oh!” they’re few and far between.
Issac Hodgins being the one name with any real stats to go off so far (a half sack he shares with Avery Roberts), this group has been ok. Not bad. Just, ok.
This group has easily been the easiest to see the talent pop. Headlined by the aforementioned Roberts and Omar Speights basically handling most of the tackling duties on every play, as they are 1st and 2nd in tackles on the team. Hamilcar Rashed came in with the most hype in preseason, but he’s been game planned for. On paper, he has underperformed. But overall this corps is deep, fast, athletic and clearly the rock stars on this side of the ball.
This is another case of ok, but nothing special. While there have been moments, and Jaydon Grant becoming one with the ball, they have shown their lack of cohesion at times. Nahshon Wright coming on might change this as the year goes on. Costly penalties and PI’s, giving the opposing Offense another set of downs too many times causes this low position grade.
Overall Defensive grade: C
You have to give a little leeway with the first two games played against teams with no film, new QB’s and new Head Coaches. While stronger 2nd halves have become a thing this year, letting teams march down the field at will in the 1st half is a cause for major concern. Coach Tibesar still has a way to go, and I know Beaver fans are growing somewhat impatient already.
Moving on to Special Teams:
I’ll make this quick. Special Teams Coordinator (yeah, some college teams have one of those) Jake Cookus took some egg on his face early. But, boy did he come back. 2 blocked punts that led to points in back to back weeks. Champ Flemmings is a return stud. Trevon Bradford showing up in a hustle play clinic. Outstanding.
Special Teams grade: A+
The Offense looked DREADFUL for the first 3 games. And, all of the sudden, they look like the Smith/Lindgren team we came to expect.
Running backs: A+
Jermar Jefferson in a return to form. How many times did ESPN classify this guy as “unknown”? He’s far and away their best player, and the premier back in the conference. BJ Baylor would be a solid starter for many other teams, and is a very capable backup. Let’s just enjoy Jefferson while he’s here. That dude should be playing on Sundays before too long.
Wide Receivers: D+
Remember Isaiah Hodgins? That was fun.
Trevon Bradford is the only pass catcher reliably catching the ball, it seems. Against Oregon, the pass game finally got going. They got Zeriah Beason going with his first TD, and he looks the part but young. I saw some life when the seams were opened up, but, they’re limited by size across the board. There’s no real #1 (maybe Bradford?), just a ton of rotational guys. Its been really challenging to watch. They’re all “good” receivers, but there’s nothing special here. But, that may not be all their fault. More on that later.
Tight Ends: C
For being the “blocking Tight End” Teagan Quitoriano sure can catch, 77yds and a TD is a decent stat line. But him and his partner in the room, Luke Musgrave have both had simply average seasons in the pass game. In the run game, however, they’ve both been stonewalls. It was Musgrave that sprung Jefferson for the opening play 75 yd TD against Cal last week. Not bad for the “receiving Tight End”. Again, seemingly on par with this season’s moniker. Ok, not great.
Offensive Line: A
I’m sorry, but nobody could have seen this coming! If you did, move to Vegas and start betting cause you’re the Nostradamus of O Line scouting.
Wow. How do you essentially replace your entire starting line (I know, not the whole thing but most of it) and manhandle some of the best front sevens in the PAC 12? This O Line is good. And with a team with a lot of bad and ok on it, its just refreshing. You know what can work when you have a QB that cant seemingly get the ball down the field consistently? A solid O Line and a top tier Running Back. Kudos to Coach Michalczik. He’s the shining light on this team, at the moment.
Which brings us to....
I need to take a moment to compliment Tristan Gebbia. He looked poised against Oregon, and his confidence grew as the game went on. But, it’s the exception so far. I’m struggling to come up with much more than that. He’s not bad, but, I haven’t seen a whole lot of that sizzle this Offense has had in recent years. I bashed the WR’s earlier, and I think its primarily due to Gebbia’s erratic play. He seemed to figure something out against Oregon. Lets hope that trend continues, and the injury is minor, at worst. Cheers to Chance Nolan for running in a TD in the absolute BIGGEST moment of the game, off the bench.
Overall Offensive Grade: C+
You can’t knock a team too much that’s had a chance to win every game they’ve played. This team has heart. Jermar Jefferson is the star of this team. Put the team on his back, and that unlocks the rest of the Offense. Gebbia getting better is a great sign. But, color me casually optimistic. I wanna see this trend continue further before I feel comfortable. Getting Coach Smith a signature win against UO in his 3rd campaign will certain be a sunny spot in an otherwise cloudy year. It’s an unpredictable year, and there have been some growing pains. I like this team. It might be the most gritty, physical team OSU has had since Coach Riley was at the helm. OSU is on the rise of the rebuild, but it’s still clearly rebuilding.