After an offseason consumed by off-the-field news, it’s finally time to settle in and learn some more about the 2023 Beaver football team on the field. Turnover on both sides of the ball from last year give the coach staff and fans a lot to learn from Oregon State’s first matchup against San Jose State since the beginning of the Gary Anderson era.
Oregon State on Offense
The basics of the Oregon State offense have been established by Jonathan Smith and company for a few years now. A preference for zone runs and a willingness to leverage play action has seen success, particularly in the running game. Both the Beavers and San Jose State are replacing substantial portions of their respective receiving corps and secondaries this year, and with the addition of DJ Uiagalelei as a potential running threat this game is a good opportunity to see what changes Oregon State brings to the table for 2023.
RT #75 Tailese Fuaga vs DE #3 Tre Smith
San Jose State lost two talented edge rushers from last year’s team including Viliami Fehoko Jr., the team leader in tackles, sacks, QB hurries, and run stops. Tre Smtih is in his third year with the Spartans but is stepping into full time action for the first time this year. The 6’5” 255 pound edge rusher recorded three pressures against USC last week and lined up on both sides the left and right side.
Fuaga comes into the season with plenty of accolades, including places on the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists. Matchups across the line of scrimmage favor the Beavers on this side of the ball, Fuaga and company will look to press that advantage in both the run and pass.
Taliese Fuaga is a menace at RT for Oregon Statepic.twitter.com/UePuRnDox0— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) July 26, 2023
QB #5 DJ Uiagalelei vs LB #10 Jordan Pollard
Week 1 is our first opportunity to see how Jonathan Smith chooses to deploy DJ Uiagaleli as a dual threat QB. Uiagaleli did not scramble much at Clemson last year, with 93 of his 111 carries being designed runs. That’s not something either Oregon State QB did with any frequency last year, but neither Gulbranson or Nolan has the kind of ability DJ does.
Pollard was one of the Spartan’s better run defenders last year, missing only 3 tackles in 144 snaps against the run. He struggled more in coverage, giving up 8 receptions on 9 targets. How he and fellow linebacker Bryun Parham hold up against both the play action game and running ability of Uiagalelei will be key.
Oregon State on Defense
Three fifths of the Beaver’s starting secondary will be new this year and will start off the campaign against a team that throws the ball around 70% of the time. Spartan’s QB Chevan Cordeiro has a wealth of experience at the college level, and is a threat to scramble if he doesn't see what he likes downfield. Oregon State will need to stay disciplined on scrambles and limit yards after the catch on short passes, while not giving up the deep shots that SJSU mixes in to take advantage of overly aggressive defenses.
EDGE #10 Andrew Chatfield Jr. vs RT #54 Jaime Navarro
Listed as an outside linebacker, Chatfield played almost exclusively as a pass rusher in rotational duties last year, setting up on both the left and right sides of the line. As arguably the Beaver’s most talented edge rusher targeting Navarro on the right side makes a lot of sense this week. Navarro saw most of his snaps at left guard last year before shifting to right tackle at the end of the season. The Spartan’s line held up well against USC, but it will be key for the Beavers front seven to disrupt SJSU’s timing and give a new secondary some opportunities.
DB #1 Ryan Cooper Jr vs WR #4 Charles Ross
The Spartans are looking for receivers to step up to fill the void, and Ross is one of the primary candidates. He had 5 catches for 62 yards vs USC, including a long of 20 yards. He is primarily a slot receiver,
Cooper spent quality time in the slot for Oregon State last year and had an up-and-down year. He had strong games against Stanford and Washington State (8 catches on 14 targets, 2 INT and 2 pass breakups), but struggled in the bowl game against Florida, allowing 81 yards on 4 catches. Cooper will be busy with the quick passing game of SJSU and will need to minimize yards after the catch even when they the quick passes off.