In a spring game where the battle at quarterback was supposed to be the main attraction, the Oregon State football team’s receiving corps stole the show.
In front of former Beaver and current Los Angeles Rams wideout Brandin Cooks, underclassman Jesiah Irish impressed, hauling in a game-high five catches for 81 yards, including a jaw-dropping 42-yard catch from quarterback Jake Luton on the 1-yard line in front of 2,500 Beaver Nation fans.
“I think a couple of guys continued to show up like Jesiah Irish,” second-year coach Jonathan Smith says. “He’s made those types of plays all through spring and he’s definitely a weapon.”
The 5-foot-11, 172-pound receiver played in only four games last season, preserving his redshirt status. But over the next few months, Irish hopes to make an impression that will earn him more playing time come August.
“This spring, I really tried to come in and learn the offense as much as I could,” Irish said of his play. “I tried to learn the defense and the schemes and I came out with a lot more confidence.”
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He’s not the only one who is vying for playing time out of the receivers. Champ Flemings, who had three receptions for 15 yards and Kolby Taylor, who caught three passes for 27 yards, also saw the field during Saturday’s scrimmage and had a chance to impress on offense.
“It’s a great receiver corps,” OSU alum Brandin Cooks said. “You are talking about guys that are playing at a high level, just continue to work hard. The more consistent that they can be, the better they’ll be off pushing each other and having a friendly competition is also amazing.”
While the receivers’ depth was on full display, fans also got to see some impactful hits on defense, as well as the QB competition between Jake Luton and Tristan Gebbia.
The sixth-year QB and Nebraska transfer may be neck-and-neck for the starting nod, but there’s no bad blood between the two players.
“Jake’s a great guy to be around all the time,” Gebbia said. “He’s got a lot of experience obviously. He gives me some pointers, I try to help him as much as I can. But you know, he’s been around the game for awhile. He’s a professional for sure.”
“I think Tristan’s a great player,” Luton said. “To come in like he has and being a scout team guy all last year is tough, that’s always a tough spot. In spring ball to be where he’s at mentally and physically too, I think he’s doing a fantastic job.”
Like last season, the Beavers running backs continue to be an asset on the ground. B.J. Baylor had a team-high 50 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns, while senior Artavis Pierce finished the day with five carries for 30 yards.
Jermar Jefferson, who finished first among Division I FBS freshman with 1,380 yards rushing in 2018, played limited minutes, finishing with 28 yards on one carry.
“All of us bring something different to the table,” Pierce said. “We’re ready to grind…it’s gonna be a three-headed monster.”
While there’s already a lot of big changes in motion for Oregon State, coach Smith made it clear what the Beavers need to accomplish this offseason.
"They need to have the best summer of their lives," Smith said. "As a team, individually, and in the weight room. It's going to be an exciting season, and you want to put the work in to do it and the expectation is that they will."