Oregon State mailbag: Pac-12 2023 schedule, Game Day in Corvallis next season, transfer talk

The first Oregon State mailbag of 2023 is here. Readers ask questions or comments, and The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Nick Daschel attempts an answer. Here goes:

OSU seems to change Benny’s face every several years. When’s the next time it’ll happen, and what will be the public’s response? — @RiverScottLake

Have heard nothing in the works regarding a Benny makeover. Rest assured, if and when it happens, fans will hate it.

What does it say about our RB group that none of the backups transferred elsewhere this offseason? Do you think Coach Smith plans to use a RB-by-committee approach in 2023 or will we continue to lean hard on Damien Martinez as we did in the 2nd half of last season? I love our RBs – Keith

Be careful about taking a victory lap in early January about transfers. Athletes haven’t even returned to school for winter quarter and met with coaches. You can also expect some movement after spring practice, too. Deshaun Fenwick is mulling a decision as to whether to return or take a run at the NFL. That said, OSU’s running back position is in good shape. The approach next season is likely to have Martinez as the lead back, with plenty of opportunities for the backups. Similar to the approach to Jermar Jefferson in 2019 and 2020.

When will the football schedule be released for next season and what is the delay? – Jamie S

The schedule was set to be released just before the Las Vegas Bowl. There have been several drafts and no consensus among the schools. Still on the table are eight and nine-game conference schedules. It should come out soon. Or not.

Update on (Omar) Speights? – Adam A

Coach Jonathan Smith prefers to let players break their news on social media regarding returns, departures and transfers. I think Speights is leaning toward returning in 2023. Although I exchanged information with an NFL scout this past week, and Speights is projected as a third-day draft pick.

Who will wear No. 5 for the Beavers next year? – JD

It’s Fenwick’s for now. If Fenwick returns next season, it’s up to him. As an aside, No. 0 and 1 are available to someone on offense next season.

Corvallis will host its first College Gameday since 2010 next season. Which game do you see is most likely. Utah, UCLA, or UW? – Pat B

That’s impossible to answer until there’s a schedule. Best guess? If Oregon State sweeps its non-conference games, target a Week 4 or 5 game if it’s Utah, UCLA or Washington.

Who is the athlete on Oregon State’s campus that does not get enough exposure? I’m talking about all sports. – Chad A

Good question. I’m going to lean towards gymnast Jade Carey. She is publicized by the school, but given Carey’s accomplishments, it feels like more could be done. It could be a Carey thing, too. Some athletes are more comfortable in the promotional spotlight than others.

Are you going down to Corvallis for the wrestling meet vs. Oklahoma State? – Shawn J

No, but sounds like a fun match. By the way, the Oregon State’s biggest dual match of the season isn’t No. 14 Oklahoma State, but no. 3 Arizona State on Feb. 5.

Does the departure of (Rejzohn) Wright & (Alex) Austin/having a less experienced secondary next season increase the need & urgency to offset a weaker secondary by using the transfer portal to improve the defensive line’s ability to put pressure on the passer? – Danny

What the secondary needs is depth. The front line – Jaden Robinson and Skyler Thomas at cornerback, Alton Julian, Kitan Oladapo and Ryan Cooper Jr. at safety/nickel – is fine. Oregon State, under Smith, has a track record of developing defensive backs. If there’s a good one in the portal, go get them. But it’s not five-alarm urgent.

Anyone know (Timea) Gardiner’s ETA? – Kevin A

Nothing official. Keep hearing January. At some point, though, does it make sense to play eight to 10 games rather than redshirt?

What consistent behaviors does OSU football need to show to maintain 8-to-10 win seasons going forward? If OSU could get one impact player at a position, what position do you think they should get? – Max C

Keep the culture and continue to promote opportunities. That seems to be Oregon State’s secret sauce. I’d push back on maintaining “10-win” seasons. Eight wins? Yes. I’d need to see more before believing OSU has elevated itself to a regular 10-win program.

Impact transfer? Always and every day, a productive defensive tackle. Those players are in short supply. Get a good one, and watch the defense soar.

How is WBB looking for an at large tourney bid? – Bennett

Outside looking in. The UCLA win helps, but the Beavers need much more on their resume to impress the NCAA tourney committee. The Beavers are 9-5, with an NCAA NET ranking of 58, and 15 regular season games remaining. There’s a path. Win the final seven home games, and at least three of the eight road games. Win the Pac-12 tourney opener, and OSU is at 20 wins. Given the conference’s strength, that puts the Beavers in the mix.

Open competition at QB? – Steve

100 percent. That’s the only way Smith knows.

Your prediction for 2023 football Beavs. – Richard K

Hard to say without knowing the schedule. The most likely setup are non-conference games against UC Davis, San Jose State and San Diego State, with Pac-12 games against (road) Arizona, Washington State, Colorado, California and Oregon, (home) Utah, Washington, UCLA and Stanford. If that’s the schedule, somewhere between eight and 11 wins. Eight if the offense is a little better and the defense isn’t nearly as strong as 2022. Closer to 11 if the offense is better, and the defense is just as good.

Enjoy your posting of halftime basketball stats, where can the full game box score be located? – Michael R

The school’s athletics website, osubeavers.com, posts complete final box scores after each game. Here is Thursday night’s vs. Utah.

Any chance OSU’s final ranking and preseason expectations result in an improved neutral site kickoff game next year? Currently, their non-con schedule is weak and could hurt them if they overachieve and are in a conversation for NY6 or better. – Kurt S

Haven’t heard of anything in the works. I wouldn’t worry about the non-conference schedule. Winning games takes care of itself. Look at FBS national championship finalist TCU. The Horned Frogs played Colorado, Tarleton State and SMU in non-conference, which is weaker than Oregon State’s 2023 non-conference slate.

In 5 years under coach Smith, has the passing game evolved or regressed? – Jimmy

Neither. Part of it has to do with Oregon State’s running game. It’s been a real strength. It wouldn’t make sense to sling it 45 or 50 times a game with its running game.

Who will play starting CBs next year? — @osubeavs21

Thomas and Robinson are the favorites. But as is always the case under Smith, everyone is going to get a look.

Because of the transfer of DJU, do you think the Beavs will pick up wide receivers in the portal they may not have had a chance with before. — @LoveMyBeavers

I don’t think Smith is desperate to sign an elite receiver, but they’re looking. Particularly at tight end. Imagine another stud receiving-type tight end to pair with Jack Velling.

Was George Kliavkoff present at the Vegas Bowl? – Joe H

Didn’t see him, but that doesn’t mean the commish wasn’t in the building.

How important is it to OSU recruiting that DJU be successful this season? We don’t get many recruits of this caliber (based on ratings) and it feels really critical to show he can be successful here – Jim

Important, for sure. If Uiagalelei becomes a more efficient passer, that’s a big selling point on the recruiting trail.

I know that DJ Uiagalelei made his announcement on Christmas Eve, and you’ve been getting some well-deserved time off. But I’m surprised that I haven’t seen any press release from OSU. Are you surprised at all? I’m sure you’ll write more about it once you have something to say. – Cary

Oregon State often takes its time releasing official news on transfer signings. It wants to make sure all the compliance boxes are checked. Uiagalelei is slated to be in Corvallis next week when winter quarter classes begin.

With the recent signing and expected transfer of a second dual threat quarterback, do you foresee the offensive scheme shifting? What are the odds Tristan Gebbia returns to OSU as a graduate after he finishes playing college football? – Craig W

The signing and success of Chance Nolan helped open Smith’s eyes to dual threat quarterbacks. I don’t see a big change to the offense, though. Oregon State has built its reputation on a pro-style offense, which is attractive to some looking at an NFL career. There will be tweaks, particularly if Uiagalelei is the quarterback. As for Gebbia, it depends if there’s an opening. Grad assistant positions are generally two-year appointments.

What’s the status of a men’s track and field program? It would seem distance running could be added to restore an XC team and small track program with minimal effect on Title IX concerns. – Jeffrey W

Little to no chance. Adding men’s track and field means Oregon State would have to make a similar move with another women’s program. Not in the budget.

Were there any NIL discussions with the players leaving to try the NFL? Would an acceptable NIL have kept them in Corvallis? I understand that the OSU NIL program is just beginning, but would it maybe matter? – Duane L

Unless I’m missing someone, the only players with eligibility remaining to leave for the NFL draft are tight end Luke Musgrave and cornerback Alex Austin. Musgrave is projected as high as a late first-round pick. No amount of NIL was bringing him back. Austin? Maybe, but there’s not a lot of NIL demand for a cornerback.

–Nick Daschel | [email protected] | @nickdaschel

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