Smith has a devastating schedule in his first season as a head coach, including a trip to Ohio State and a return to Husky Stadium in November.
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Former Oregon State quarterback Jonathan Smith is keenly aware of what it takes to win in Corvallis. He is aware, too, of the massive rebuilding required in his return to his alma mater.
In the Pac-12 preseason media poll, the Beavers were a near-unanimous pick to finish last in the North in Smith’s first season as a head coach. Coming off a 1-11 season in 2017, the Beavers have much work to do, and Smith has a devastating schedule to navigate this fall.
Oregon State opens the season at Ohio State and closes with a four-week stretch against USC, at Stanford, at UW (with the Huskies coming off a bye) and then the Civil War in Corvallis.
“I don’t want to shy away from anything week in and week out,” the former Washington offensive coordinator said Wednesday at Pac-12 Football Media Day. “At the end of the day, I think it’s about winning football games. I think it’s important to get the foundation right and being able to build things off of that. But I want to see them competing for 60 minutes, and I want to see them improving and working to improve from Game 1 to Game 12. Those two things I want to see.”
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Back in Corvallis, Smith should get the benefit of time and patience from a long-suffering fanbase.
“I think there is some excitement. I really do,” Smith said. “I think it’s a fresh start, obviously, with me coming back. We’ve got a lot of former players coming back, which has been a bunch of fun, and they’re excited. I think that’s important for our players to see some of these former guys that have played, done some great things, to come back, talk about their experience at Oregon State and Corvallis to really let these guys know that it is a great place. You can do some great things here. So I think it’s an exciting time.”
And, yes, Smith has brought to Corvallis many of the offensive elements he learned from Chris Petersen.
“What I like about what we did at Washington is we were able to be multiple,” he said. “In regards to, we had some different schemes really week in and week out, from a defensive side, preparing for that, but also it allowed for us to be able to attack defenses because we had different attributes to our offense.
“So at Oregon State, for sure, we’re going to build to be looking and have the ability to be multiple.”
Chip’s in charge
Smith is one of five new coaches in the Pac-12, and one of the new coaches is plenty familiar with the conference. Except, the landscape was much different when Chip Kelly left Oregon after the 2012 season.
“When I first came into this league there weren’t many spread offenses and we were the only team that had shiny helmets,” Kelly said Wednesday. “Now everybody runs the spread offense and everybody has shiny helmets.”
At Oregon, Kelly lost seven games in four years. At UCLA, he takes over for Jim Mora after the Bruins lost seven games last season.
Mario Cristobal is Oregon’s third coach in three years, and he remains a curiosity for many unfamiliar with his background. The former Alabama offensive line coach was Oregon’s co-offensive coordinator last season, and he’s had initial success on the recruiting front while building one of the nation’s top-rated classes for 2019.
“Talent acquisition is always going to be one of the three parts that make a program what it is,” Cristobal said. “So we’re very aggressive, but we’re aggressive when we identify something that we see that really fits us at Oregon, what we want to be and what we want to become.
“But part of being aggressive is being very real. We are very real. Very genuine. We attack this process. But when we see something that we feel needs to be at Oregon, we’re going to get after it and be aggressive.”
Oregon’s 2019 class, with 17 commitments, is ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 by 247Sports.com. UW’s class is No. 2 after picking up its 13th commitment on Wednesday from Bakersfield (Calif.) safety Cameron Williams, a former Oregon commit.
A battle for Bowers
Second-year Cal coach Justin Wilcox isn’t ready to commit to Bothell High School product Ross Bowers as his quarterback for the second straight year.
Cal was 5-7 with Bowers as its quarterback last season, when he threw for 3,039 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as a sophomore. He will compete in fall camp against senior Chase Forrest, freshman Chase Garbers and Brandon McIlwain, a transfer from South Carolina.
“We have a returner in Ross Bowers, who did some good things last year and has grown a lot in the last year and half,” said Wilcox, the former UW defensive coordinator. “Ross has done a nice job since the season ended working on his body, did a really nice job in spring. He’s a much better player than he was a year ago right now, which is encouraging.”