Hawaii Football: First Look at the Oregon State Beavers
The Warriors will travel to the Pacific Northwest to battle Oregon State. Here’s our early preview of what to know about the Beavers.
Are the Beavs on the rise?
Hawaii Football: First Looks at Non-Conference Opponents
After mixing it up with the UCLA Bruins to begin the 2021 college football season, the Hawaii Warriors will head back to the mainland on September 11 for a date with another Pac-12 opponent, the Oregon State Beavers.
The Beavers have slowly built momentum over the last few years after bottoming out at 1-11 in 2017, a development which the Warriors saw for themselves just two years ago. While no one would confuse Oregon State with a top-flight conference contender, they could be ready to play their way back into a bowl for the first time since 2013 and proving they can beat a talented team like Hawaii makes for a critical pivot point.
Location: Corvallis, Oregon
Mascot: Benny Beaver
2020 Record: 2-5 (2-5 Pac-12)
Head Coach: Jonathan Smith (fourth year, 9-22 overall). It hasn’t always shown up in the win column, but Smith’s Beavers have made plenty of headway on their trek back to respectability. They shocked in-state rival Oregon for one of their two wins in 2020 and only lost one game by more than ten points, finishing 1-3 in one-score decisions overall.
One thing which could help their progress is the fact that Oregon State brings back 84% of their production from a year ago, so while dealing with the likes of the Ducks and the Washington Huskies won’t get any easier, continuity could make this time ripe for a breakthrough.
LB Avery Roberts
You may not think of defense when you think of Oregon State, but Roberts has become the heart of that unit with just 16 career starts under his belt. He’s led the Beavers in tackles in each of the last two years and even paced the entire Pac-12 in 2020 with 69 total takedowns (including 2.5 tackles for loss), earning a spot on the all-conference first-team defense as a result.
QB Tristan Gebbia
While he won’t flash elite tools like other Pac-12 quarterbacks, Gebbia gives the Beavers an effective signal-caller who won’t make many mistakes. He completed 62% of his passes and averaged 6.4 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and three interceptions in four games, though a hamstring injury suffered against Oregon knocked him out for the rest of the season.
Tristan Gebbia played QB at Calabasas HS. I also played (kinda) QB at Calabasas HS.
That’s it. That’s the tweet. pic.twitter.com/p6jGcVyz2e
— Ben Stevens (@BenScottStevens) November 28, 2020
C Nathan Eldridge
Hawaii’s ability to stop the run is still a work in progress and Eldridge is the kind of shot-caller who could set them back for a week. Like Roberts, he was also an all-Pac 12 first-team selection after anchoring a unit that was better than you think by both traditional measures and advanced ones.
DT Isaac Hodgins
If the surname sounds familiar, it’s because former Beaver and newly minted Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins is his brother. Isaac has been pretty solid in his own right, though, as a multi-year starter on the interior who picked up 28 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2020.
TE Teagan Quitoriano
Hawaii won’t face many tight ends with the kind of skill set that the 6-foot-6, 256-pound Salem native brings to the table. He led the Beavers with three catches of 20 or more yards last fall and finished the year with 14 catches for 185 yards. Between that and his tenacity as a run-blocker, he could be a problem for the Warriors’ defensive ends and linebackers.
Raise your hand if you knew that Oregon State’s offense has been, according to SP+, a top-40 unit nationally in the last two seasons. If the Beavers want to make it three years in a row, though, they’ll have to shore up some big departures.
Chief among the priorities is keeping Gebbia healthy because backup Chance Nolan has his strengths (4.9 yards per carry), he also didn’t generate many big passing plays (50.5% completion rate, 5.9 yards per attempt). Finding someone, or someones, to replace star running back Jermar Jefferson is another. Deshaun Fenwick transferred in from South Carolina while B.J. Baylor held his own in a limited sample size (27 carries, 126 yards, one TD), but whoever steps into the breach will have some big shoes to fill.
Elsewhere, at least, the Beavers are loaded for bear. Quitoriano and sophomore Luke Musgrave make for a solid and physically imposing duo at tight end, while senior receiver Trevon Bradford headlines a pass catching group that brings back all but one of its major contributors from 2020. The offensive line also brings back all five starters to help Gebbia stay on his feet and open running lines for whomever replaces Jefferson. In all, this is a unit that could be much better than you’d expect.
Any impact the Beavers can make in the Pac-12 will depend heavily on how much this unit can improve in 2021. Where the offense was easily above average, the defense… well, let’s just say it was not good. They coughed up 6.49 yards per play, which ranked ninth in the Pac-12, and ranked in the triple digits by points per drive allowed, line yards per carry allowed, opportunity rate allowed, defensive sack rate and… you get the idea.
Oregon State’s projected 4-2-5 definitely lacks size, which could be good news for a Hawaii offense that may want to line up and push opponents around. Hodgins and fellow defensive tackle Simon Sandberg should lead the way inside, but no player had more than two sacks in 2020 and that won’t get the job done. Roberts and Omar Speights may comprise the defense’s greatest strength at linebacker, but they won’t be able to much more than clean up on the second level if the defensive line can’t get a consistent push.
In the secondary, the Beavers are likely to get a little younger overall. Junior nickelback Jaydon Grant is a reliable veteran with 32 career starts, but other part-time contributors from 2020 like Alex Austin, Akili Arnold and Alton Julian — all of whom are either redshirt freshmen or sophomores — will be expected to do more in starting roles.
On paper, this looks like one of the Mountain West’s most underrated non-conference games. Hawaii and Oregon State were a thorn in many opponents’ sides last fall, but the difference between them is that the Warriors look more trustworthy to make a critical stop when needed. In a close game, it’ll come down to who can do those little things with more consistency.
Hawaii 34, Oregon State 31