OSU Football head coach Jonathan Smith finished out the offseason recruiting with 11 verbal commits for the 2020 football season. However, with the early signing period in mid-December and the lengthy regular signing period running from February 5th to April 1st, there is still a substantial amount of time between now and when recruits must make their final decisions.
The performance of the team this season will have a direct impact on the outcomes of these verbal commits officially signing. With a struggling defense last season, the Beavers are hoping to develop more depth in future years, especially with five key defensive assets that could be gained should the commits sign.
Two of the biggest commits are defensive ends from junior colleges who hope to transfer to OSU to finish out their college football careers. Alex Lemon, a defensive end at San Diego Mesa College, currently ranks at 20 nationally for all junior college recruits and at three for all junior college defensive ends. Tavis Shippen, a defensive end at Mt. San Jacinto College, currently ranks at 50 nationally for all junior college recruits and at 12 for all junior college defensive ends.
Both Lemon and Shippen are strong prospects to bring leadership and experience to the defense. However, the pressure falls to current defensive backs to step up and prove that the Beavers’ defense is worthy of two of the top defensive ends in the country.
The top verbal commit for the Beavers is wide receiver Zeriah Beason from Duncanville, Texas. Beason potentially represents the greatest strengths of the recruits. Beason, who is entering his senior season at Duncanville this upcoming fall, currently ranks at 625 nationally for all high school recruits and at 105 for all wide receiver high school recruits.
With OSU Football junior wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins being watched for the Biletnikoff Award, which is presented to the best wide receiver in college football each year, the Beavers have historically had a strong leader in this position. Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks, an OSU Football alumni, won the award in 2013 in his junior season with the team.
Discussions with Hodgins have suggested that OSU Football redshirt senior quarterback Jake Luton is slated to be the starting quarterback for the upcoming season. Should Hodgins and Luton have chemistry and produce a season that puts Hodgins into the discussion of the award throughout the season, Beason becomes an even stronger candidate for a signed commit.
Beason would likely work with OSU Football redshirt sophomore quarterback Triston Gebbia, a transfer from Nebraska last year. As Luton looks to finish his last season with the Beavers, Gebbia is anticipated to take a few snaps and begin a transfer into the position in the next year. Beason’s potential to develop and work with Gebbia is an advantage as the two may have two full seasons to train and build chemistry.
One of the biggest threats to losing Beason as a recruit is LSU. The Southeastern Conference school has extended an offer to the wide receiver but he has yet to visit the school. However, LSU has already landed one four and one five star recruits for wide receivers in the same recruiting class. For a team that is already developed well in depth of wide receivers with the slated recruits, Beason must consider the level of playing time in a recruiting class with the LSU Tigers compared to the OSU Beavers.
Two inside linebackers have also verbally committed to OSU Football and are Oregonians. John Miller, entering his senior season as a linebacker at Tualatin High School, currently ranks as 792 nationally for all high school recruits and at 32 for all inside linebacker high school recruits. Junior Walling, entering his senior season as a linebacker at McNary High School in Keizer, currently ranks at 859 nationally for all high school recruits and at 38 for all inside linebacker high school recruits.
Once again, the signing of these two linebackers is contingent on the success of the defense this upcoming season. Development and growth from last season will prove the team’s long-term success and will be the final draw to convince recruits the team is worth joining.
The last top 2020 recruit for the Beavers is pro-style quarterback Ben Gulbranson. Gulbranson, entering his senior season at Newbury Park in California, currently ranks at 1087 nationally for all high school recruits and at 40 for all pro-style quarterback high school recruits.
As a pro-style quarterback, Gulbranson has the ability to make consistent strong decisions while in the pocket. Both Luton and Gebbia are also pro-style quarterbacks, meaning the developed offense that is iconic to Smith’s strategies.
Smith previously worked with a pro-style quarterback with former Washington Football quarterback Jake Browning. As the offensive coordinator for Washington before becoming the OSU Football head coach in 2018, Smith recruited Browning and worked with him to help lead one of the strongest offenses in the nation at the time. Smith and Browning were key to Washington’s appearance in the NCAA College Football Playoffs at the end of the 2016 season.
Continuing the pattern of a pro-style quarterback allows Smith to maintain offensive development in the long run and to continue growth through consistency. Gulbranson could prove to be a natural progression of quarterbacks in a key development of depth over the next few years.
Overall, the recruits who have verbally committed to OSU Football will be contingent on the upcoming season. The hopeful improvement of the defense paired with a season quarterback and potential breakout wide receiver are all clear signs to the recruits that the changing culture of OSU Football may soon be the best spot to expand their collegiate careers.
All rankings for the recruits were found via 247Sports. Updated rankings can be found via their website.