The Arizona State Sun Devils and the Oregon State Beavers matchup on Saturday with both teams trying to get their rookie head coach their first conference win. Will it be Herm Edwards or Jonathan Smith? We caught up with Joe Londergan of Building The Dam to see.
BV: What is the current quarterback situation with the Beavers? Conor Blount has been the primary starter so far this year, but Jake Luton has a solid game against Nevada before getting injured.
JL:Conor Blount is going to start, but Jake Luton is available after being kept out of the Arizona game with an ankle injury. They both have their benefits. Blount is a bit more mobile while Luton plays the vertical game better. Neither has performed well consistently enough that I, personally, can say that one is better than the other. I do expect Blount to play the majority of the game though.
BV: ASU’s offensive coordinator Rob Likens had a lot to say about the Beavers in his press conference on Tuesday. One being that Oregon State has had a lot of big plays this season. Who are the most ‘explosive’ players on the Beavers?
JL: Wide receiver Trevon Bradford has displayed a lot of big-play capability. He’s already got four touchdowns this year. He’s the biggest deep threat the Beavs have. Here’s an example of that:
Timmy Hernandez has some great “yards after catch” ability as well. He doesn’t get tackled easy, which makes him a good red zone target.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention freshman running back Jermar Jefferson. He’s had six scores already and 473 yards on the ground. The run game as a whole has been the biggest bright spot for the Beavs this year, really. Jefferson has made a habit of breaking off long runs, with one of at least 20 yards in each game this season.
BV: Likens also talked about how the Beavers have ‘nothing to lose,’ and how that can make them dangerous. Does Jonathan Smith let his team play loose and play with no pressure on them?
JL: I wouldn’t say there’s no pressure but Smith isn’t a yeller, a screamer, or a doom and gloom type of guy. In my opinion, those things aren’t what this program needs right now. The Gary Andersen years created an overwhelming sense of negativity in the fan base and the program itself. So someone who is approaching this rebuild with what I’m labeling as realistic optimism, even if the victories are not rolling in right away, will be beneficial. Smith’s attitude on the sideline and in pressers seems to indicate that he recognizes the weak spots on his team from game to game. They haven’t always gotten fixed right away, but his tenure just started. So I’d say this team looks looser than they have, but there’s definitely a little pressure.
BV: Before the season started ASU and Oregon State were sort of seen as the laughing stocks of the Pac-12. After four weeks despite not having the best records do you think the programs are headed on the right track to getting better?
JL: I’d say yes for both. ASU is clearly getting the more immediate results though. Manny Wilkins is a great quarterback. The running game isn’t too shabby either. Like I mentioned, I think Oregon State is headed in the right direction, but complete program rebuilds like what we’re seeing in Corvallis take time.
BV: Score prediction and why?
JL: ASU wins this one 31-20 I think. I think after the UW game, we saw that ASU is capable of having a good balanced attack. Oregon State had a lot of trouble defending the run against Arizona and I don’t expect that to immediately improve. So I think Eno Benjamin and the backs will take advantage of that.