BEAVERTON — All eyes were on the quarterbacks under cloudy skies at Mountainside High.
Returning starter Jake Luton ran with the first team, but the reps were evenly dispersed between several challengers on a windy but dry mid-April Saturday. It turned out to be a near-perfect day for the annual Dam City Showcase.
“I felt really good about it,” said Jonathan Smith, Oregon State’s first-year football coach. “I thought the guys moved around really well and I liked the effort.
“It wasn’t perfect on both sides of the ball in any way, but I’m really pleased with it.”
Conor Blount, Jack Colletto, Aidan Willard and Luton all received plenty of snaps before a packed house at Beaverton’s newest high school. Mason Moran, who is still listed as a quarterback on the roster, was working with the receivers.
Luton appeared to be the sharpest during the scrimmage, but each quarterback had their moments.
“They have all been doing a great job,” sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins said. “We are throwing a lot on them, a lot of signals, a lot of calls. They have to know everything, and I think they are all doing a good job of stepping up.”
Added Smith: “(The quarterbacks) are critical to our success, no question. We’ve got to have some quality QB play, and they are headed that direction.”
Luton made quick decisions and displayed strong accuracy on short throws and down the field. He regularly led receivers to allow for yards after the catch.
The 6-foot-7, 234-pound senior started four games last year before suffering a season-ending thoracic spine fracture. He is still working his way back to full strength and said the injury has given him a newfound appreciation for football.
“I’m just trying to come out here every single day and have fun with the guys,” Luton said.
The first half of the Dam City Showcase, OSU’s seventh of 15 spring sessions, was mostly a standard practice. The last hour more resembled a traditional scrimmage, and the Beavers gave the large crowd plenty to cheer about.
OSU flew around on defense and didn’t surrender many chunk plays while the offense was able to move the ball in spurts. Along with Luton, freshmen receivers Kolby Taylor and Champ Flemings were offensive standouts.
Freshman cornerback DeShon Wilson showed solid coverage skills and delivered a pair of hits that electrified the sideline. Wilson knocked the ball out of Christian Wallace’s hands on a rush attempt and also blew up a slip screen pass that was intended for running back Calvin Tyler.
“That was a good hit by him,” Tyler said. “I respect his game, and that’s what you want to see.”
Hodgins, who appeared to be OK after suffering a left shoulder injury late in the scrimmage, believes it was a positive step forward.
The Beavers are itching to flush last season’s 1-11 disappointment.
“We are way more disciplined than we were last year,” Hodgins said. “Whether it’s in the weight room, in meetings or with anything, we are 10 times more disciplined than we were last year. I feel like (the new coaches) make us pay attention to little details more, and I feel like those little details are going to be the difference between losing by three or winning by three.”
Running back B.J. Baylor also exited the scrimmage with an ankle injury.
OSU has two more weeks of practice before hosting the annual spring game, set for April 28, at Reser Stadium.