Oregon State loses Jonathan Smith: Our candidate list for the Beavers as their search begins and uncertainty swirls

The timing is terrible for OSU as the Pac-12 implodes and their future remains in doubt

The prodigal son has returned. On Saturday, Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith accepted a contract offer from Michigan State, one day after his alma mater suffered a season-ending loss to Oregon that felt funereal on multiple levels:

— Their final Pac-12 regular-season game.

— Their final scheduled rivalry game with the Ducks.

— Their final game with Smith on the bench.

This isn’t a gut punch, people. It’s a right cross to an exposed jaw as the Beavers try to secure their future after the Pac-12 implosion. Is Oregon State helping to rebuild the conference? Will it eventually become a member of the Mountain West? How extensive are the resources? How crowded is the roster?

In every way, the timing is terrible. Candidates for the position will have a slew of questions that the school will simply not be able to answer.

However, we believe Smith made the wrong decision — not because he is leaving OSU, which is understandable given the uncertainty, but because Michigan State is the wrong job for him.

It’s a second-rate job at a first-rate conference with a blue blood program a few miles away.

Smith faces many of the same challenges in East Lansing that he did in Corvallis, except that MSU isn’t his alma mater, it’s not on the West Coast, and it will lose ground within the Big Ten hierarchy once Oregon, Washington, and USC join.

Perhaps Smith is looking forward to the challenge. Maybe he can’t say no to the money. (The contract terms have not been disclosed, but Smith will be paid significantly more than the $5 million he earned in Corvallis.) Perhaps he believes OSU is on the verge of collapse.

However, we see Smith being swallowed up by the Big Ten and lost in the machinery of the massive league, unable to carve an identity for the Spartans in the same way that his methods worked for OSU.

Meanwhile, the Beavers are reeling both on and off the field, and athletic director Scott Barnes has a lengthy to-do list.

Barnes must find a head coach before the transfer portal opens on December 4, in addition to determining OSU’s conference affiliation and competition schedules for the fall of 2024.

The majority of the Beavers’ two-deep could be lost.

They do, however, have a hiring model in place: Look for Jonathan Smith 2.0.

In other words, they require a coach with razor-sharp evaluative skills, as OSU’s success is dependent on converting two- and three-star recruits into all-conference performers.

They need a coach whose style of play fits OSU’s recruiting pool, a coach who can sell the Corvallis experience to transfers looking for a second chance, a coach who is comfortable working in the shadows, and a coach who embraces what OSU has to offer rather than dwelling on resources the school cannot provide.

Of course, candidates will want to know about resource allocation in a post-Pac-12 world, conference affiliation, NIL support, and the schedule for 2024, among other things.

The Beavers will not have all the answers.

It’s terrible timing–so terrible, in fact, that we’d argue the Beavers would have been better off with a mediocre season that lowered Smith’s market value in the same way that Washington State’s struggles cooled Jake Dickert’s candidacy for Michigan State or any other power conference opening.

Oregon State, in our opinion, should consider the following (listed alphabetically):

Trent Bray, defensive coordinator at Oregon State, is one of two candidates on the current OSU staff, along with offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren. Bray has a genetic advantage because he played for former Oregon State coach Mike Riley. Furthermore, the Beavers’ recent success coincides with Bray’s promotion to permanent defensive playcaller after the 2021 season. Bray is the safest play available if OSU must avoid risk with this critical hire.

Brent Brennan, head coach at San Jose State: Brennan took over a low-resource program that had fallen into the Group of Five abyss and slowly rebuilt the Spartans to the point where they are bowl-eligible for the third time in four years. Brennan is a tireless recruiter with an engaging personality who is also well-versed in Oregon State. He coached wide receivers for Mike Riley (and Gary Andersen) for six seasons before taking the SJSU job in late 2016. Given the uncertainty, is Oregon State doing a better job than San Jose State? Yes. Brennan, on the other hand, is a Bay Area native whose parents both attended SJSU. As a result, making a decision would be difficult.

Mike Denbrock, offensive coordinator at LSU: Few coordinators have had more success than Denbrock this season, as he oversees the nation’s top offense (46.8 points per game) and has developed quarterback Jayden Daniels into a Heisman Trophy contender. Denbrock is familiar with the Pacific Northwest, having spent four years coaching the offensive line at the University of Washington in the mid-2000s, and has worked for two elite coaches in the last decade: Brian Kelly (Notre Dame and LSU) and Luke Fickell (Cincinnati).

Ryan Grubb, offensive coordinator at the University of Washington: Hiring UW’s offensive coordinator worked well for the Beavers in 2017, so why not consider another raid on Montlake? Of course, it would be more difficult to convince Grubb than Smith. However, the Huskies’ playcaller clearly understands offense, has worked for a top-tier head coach, and carries a strong enough reputation to attract players through the transfer portal. Given OSU’s situation, could Grubb be hesitant? Without a doubt.

Bryan Harsin, former Boise State coach: If you lost track of Harsin’s career after his Mountain West championships with the Broncos, know that he only lasted 1.5 seasons at Auburn — a poor fit in every way. Harsin wants to return to the bench, with an eye on the West Coast. (We believe he is aggressively pursuing the San Diego State position.) He, like Smith, is familiar with the Pacific Northwest, is a former quarterback, and previously worked for Chris Petersen.

Oregon State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren: Lindgren and Bray are the only options if the Beavers promote from within. He has a fantastic reputation as a playcaller and clearly understands what works for OSU’s recruiting pool. Furthermore, promoting Lindgren may improve the Beavers’ chances of retaining one of their quarterbacks, D.J. Uiagalelei or Aidan Chiles, as well as tailback Damian Martinez and outstanding offensive line coach Jim Michalczik.

Barry Odom, head coach at UNLV: Many fans may have missed Odom’s remarkable turnaround in Sin City, where the Rebels were transformed in a single, spectacular season. Odom, who was hired only 50 weeks ago, took over a program that hadn’t had a winning season in ten years and is now atop the Mountain West with a 9-2 record. Odom, who coached Missouri for four seasons in the late 2010s, also has Power Five experience. We agree with SJSU’s Brennan: despite the lingering uncertainty, Oregon State is a better job than UNLV.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply