Like most teams Oregon State football had an odd season in 2020. The pandemic, a shortened season, testing and tracking who was in/out on a week-to-week basis; it was weird. One side effect to the Pac-12 playing fewer football games than most other conferences was that A LOT of players chose to return for 2021. The Pac-12 features 8 of the top 15 teams (Oregon State is 7th) in Bill Connelly’s returning production calculations.
Here’s the top-15:
The Beavers return 94% of their offense and 79% of their defense. Before I dive into the reasons to be optimistic it has to be said that Oregon State won’t return some pretty big names though:
- Jermar Jefferson (Declared for NFL Draft)
- Hamilcar Rashed (Declared for NFL Draft)
- Nahshon Wright (Declared for NFL Draft)
- Isaiah Dunn (Declared for NFL Draft)
- Kolby Taylor (Medical Retirement)
- David Morris (Medical Retirement)
In addition to those guys, a handful of players have entered the transfer portal and most likely won’t return. Including: Isaac Garcia, Keishon Dawkins, Mason Moran & Rob Vanderlaan.
Now a lot of this is fluid and other guys could choose not to return to school, but as it stands now the Beavers are still going to have a ton of returning production. The offensive line which performed much better than expected will return basically everyone and add Utah State transfer Heneli Bloomfield to the mix.
The receivers are going to be explosive! The group of Trevon Bradford, Zeriah Beason, Champ Flemings, Tre’Shaun Harrison and Tyjon Lindsey will add Georgia WR Makiya Tongue who is an elite athlete. Also Jimmy Valsin is an up-and-coming elite receiver. The tight ends will be led by Teagan Quitoriano and Luke Musgrave who are both experienced pass-catchers.
New running backs coach AJ Steward will have a full rotation of guys to help replace Jermar Jefferson’s production. He’ll coach up a backfield that features BJ Baylor, South Carolina transfer Deshaun Fenwick, Isaiah Newell, Damir Collins, Ta’Ron Madison & Trey Lowe.
The biggest question mark revolves around who is going to win the starting quarterback job. We got to see both Tristian Gebbia and Chance Nolan in 2020. Gebbia won the job and struggled at first, but looked great against Oregon before suffering a season ending injury. Chance Nolan flashed moments of brilliance, but wasn’t consistent enough for the offense to perform at an elite level. Whoever wins the job starting job in 2021 will have a plethora of weapons around them and should have some good protection inside the pocket.
On the defensive side of the ball it all starts with middle linebackers Avery Roberts & Omar Speights. Those two were everywhere in 2020 and should continue to rack up tackles going forward. Linebackers will continue to be a strength on this team. The defensive line will have another year of experience under their belts and should continue to improve. There are a bunch of athletes in the secondary, but a lockdown corner will need to emerge to help replace Nahshon Wright who was the Beavers best CB last year.
There’s no way around it, Oregon State’s defense needs to improve. Ranked 102nd in the nation in 2020, the Beavers gave up over 33 points a game. But a non-conference schedule that features Purdue, Hawaii & Idaho could give the defense some time to gel before heading into the Pac-12 portion. Questions remain for this team, but the returning production coupled with transfers who will make an immediate impact have the Beavers on the verge of the best season since Mike Riley was the head coach. Bowl eligibility should be the expectation next year.