Oregon State’s quarterback battle is going to look quite different than it did a year ago.
Going into last season, Tristan Gebbia was working to unseat longtime starter Jake Luton and add a more athletic presence to Oregon State’s offense.
This time around, Gebbia is entering camp as the elder statesmen of the Beavers’ quarterback room, but he's battling a group that is much deeper than it was a year ago, according to Oregon State’s coaches.
“I think there’s more guys involved with it,” Oregon state offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said. “Last year it was kind of Jake and Tristan and we just had two guys. Really right now we’ve got four guys that are taking reps with the first and second team.”
Gebbia has the lead on the battle right now, Lindgren said. But Chance Nolan, Ben Gulbranson and Nick Moore have all been running with the ones and twos throughout the first five days of fall camp.
OSU head coach Jonathan Smith said Nolan had his best practice at Oregon State thus far on Monday. Over the past couple days, the OSU staff has noticed the redshirt sophomore becoming more comfortable with schematic concepts, and watched him deliver some of the plays they saw on tape when they were recruiting him.
“He’s a guy that’s got a little bit of moxie to him in the way he plays and competes,” Lindgren said. “When things break down, he’s got really good feet and can make some plays outside the pocket, which we didn’t have a ton of with Jake last year. I think (Monday) just elevated his confidence and it will be fun to watch him develop going forward.”
The Beavers will hold their first scrimmage on Saturday and that could go a long way in sorting out the quarterback hierarchy in the early part of camp. Ultimately, though, whoever wins the job will likely bring many of the same things to the table that Luton did last season.
“Just consistency I think is what we’re preaching in the room right now,” Lindgren said. “Going out and making great decisions and taking care of the football for us and managing our offense. Jake Luton did a heck of a job with that last year. So whoever takes it has big shoes to fill.”
Gebbia transferred to Oregon State as a redshirt freshman from Nebraska last season. As a former four-star prospect who carries an athletic 6-foot-3 frame, he brings plenty of talent.
But it’s the intangibles that Gebbia is flashing in the early part of camp that have Lindgren even more excited.
“I like Tristan — he’s one of the smarter, more knowledgeable QB’s,” Lindgren said. “He really works at it in the classroom. I think he has a really good understanding of defensive football and how defenses are trying to attack him. The game is slowing down for him a little bit.”
The concerns so far have been Gebbia’s turnovers during the install period of camp, and the offensive staff has been on him about managing the ball. But the promise he flashed during his lone start against Oregon last year has Lindgren optimistic for what Gebbia could do this season.
“You saw glimpses of what he could be in that game,” Lindgren said.
For Gebbia’s part, he is doing what he can to block out the noise and only focus on his own performance each day. He said he took a similar approach while competing with Luton for the job last year.
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t trying to help Oregon State’s younger group of quarterbacks; with the uncertainty presented by the pandemic, he knows depth will be important at every position this season. He’s done what he can to help the newcomers grasp the complexities of the Oregon State offense.
“You see it all over the NFL — guys getting sick and others having to step up,” Gebbia said. “There’s injuries, everything. In the quarterback room, we’re going to have to be ready to go this year and that’s the bottom line. As much as I can help those guys, I will.”
Keobounnam on watch list
Oregon State redshirt senior Nous Keobounnam has been named to the fall watch list for the Rimington Trophy.
The Rimington Trophy is given annually to the nation’s top collegiate center. The honor is named for Dave Rimington, an All-American center at Nebraska in 1981 and 1982.
Keobounnam enters the 2020 season having played in 35 career games for the Beavers, making 11 starts. He played in all 12 games in 2019, making 11 starts at center.
The Portland native came to Oregon State from Centennial High School, where he was a three-sport athlete, competing in basketball and track and field (first team all-league in the shot put) along with football. He was named honorable mention all-state in football as a senior as well as first team all-league.
Jarrid Denney can be reached at 541-521-3214 or via email at Jarrid.Denney@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @jarrid_denney
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