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Beaver Football Review: Offense & Quarterbacks

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

With a burn from the Sun Bowl and the National Championship game behind us, we can close the book on the 2023 Oregon State football season. The Beavers had dreams of capturing the Pac-12 title going into the year and despite a couple self-inflicted wounds and a rather sour end of the year it has still been one of the more successful in OSU history.

The last couple months have also been a whirlwind of player and coach movement both in and out of the Beaver State. The following series of posts will look back on each position group and how they performed and look towards 2024 both in terms of returning players and recruits and those inbound from the transfer portal. Additional players from the transfer portal are likely to come in the next few weeks as Trent Bray and his staff look to fill out the 2024 roster.

A total of 78 offensive & defensive players saw the field for the Beavers in the 2023 season, 41 on offense and 37 on defense. As we have throughout the season, we will leave aside special teams snaps for counting purposes.


Offense

First some headline statistics. The Beavers ran a total of 855 offensive plays in 2023, and on average held onto the ball for 30:16 per game. The most plays in a game were the 78 they ran against Washington, while the fewest were an anemic 47 against Notre Dame. Johnathan Smith and Brian Lindgren’s offense was both balanced (34.6 run plays to 32.8 pass plays per game) and deliberate. Despite holding the time of possession advantage in 8 of 14 games, the Beavers averaged the same number of plays run as opponents and used a successful run game to control the tempo of the game.

They could then use play action passes to take shots downfield and create explosive plays. That approach fueled an offense that averaged 32 points per game, including crossing the 50 threshold three times (UC Davis, Cal, and Stanford). Challenges came when the passing game couldn't find a rhythm, and although they could usually fight out of it, stalled drives made chasing deficits too much to overcome against Washington State and Arizona. It is not surprising the offense fell off a cliff in the last two games of the season with a combination of coaching drama and transfer portal exodus, which put a damper on what was otherwise a solid offensive season.

Italics mean that the player won't be back for 2024, either due to graduating, declaring for the NFL draft, or entering the transfer portal. Info on transfers and commitments is pulled from on3.

Quarterback: DJ Uiagalelei (709), Adian Chiles (95), Ben Gulbranson (50)

2023 Recap

The season started with a ton of promise for the short term as DJ Uiagalelei became perhaps the most highly regarded recruit to walk through the Valley Football Center. The recruitment of Adian Chiles promised an equally bright future, one that the coaching staff looked to ensure by getting Chiles a drive a game throughout the Pac-12 schedule. DJU ended with the 26th best offensive grade amongst D1 QBs (81.9). That was good for 5th best in the Pac-12 behind Bo Nix, Michael Penix Jr., Shedeur Sanders, and Noah Fifita.

Uiagalelei’s 8.4 yards per attempt were 5th and was one of the better marks in college football. His completion percentage of 57.1% was farther down the list, which speaks to the shot play approach the offense took with passing the football. There were many times when DJU got to the back of his drop and held the ball, not liking what he saw on his first read. We won’t get to find out whether that would have changed with more time in the offense, but a more decisive approach may have gotten the Beavers a few more extended drives and opportunities.

Chiles saw extended action against both UC Davis and Stanford but saw the field for at least one drive in 9 of 14 games. He was the beneficiary of some short fields at times but was impressive at moving the ball and using his mobility to extend drives.

It's not a surprise that both QBs are headed elsewhere for 2024, DJU needs another year in a stable environment to boost his draft stock, and Chiles was recruited by Smith and Langsdorf and with MSU’s QB transferring there is an opportunity right away for the Spartans with the coaching staff that sold him coming out of high school.

2024 Forecast

Incoming Transfers: Gevani McCoy (Idaho, 787 snaps), Gabarri Johnson (Missouri, 0)

Other Players on Roster: Travis Throckmorton (R-Fr), Dom Montiel (R-Fr)

Recruits: Kallen Gutridge (N/A)

Trent Bray and the new coaching staff have done their best to reload at the QB position, and how those moves turn out will do more to determine 2024 success than anything else. With McCoy and Johnson, the Beavers have a mix of experience and talent that can compete into the fall for the starting job. McCoy has two years as a starter for the Vandals under his belt, including a freshman year in which he won the Jerry Rice Award as the best freshman in FCS (an award previously won by the likes of Shedeur Sanders, Cam Ward, and Trey Lance).

Johnson is a former 4-star prospect who received an offer from Oregon State as a high schooler before committing to Missouri. He was stuck behind two others on the depth chart and in the transfer portal era the opportunity to compete for a starting job at OSU is a helpful selling point for Corvallis.

One thing that will be interesting to watch next year is the changes coming to the offense with new offensive coordinator Ryan Gunderson. Gunderson got his start in the Mike Riely pro-style offense of the mid 2000’s but has spent the last three seasons as the QB coach for Chip Kelly and his spread offense with a far greater emphasis on the shotgun and run-pass options.