Oregon State quarterback situation: the debrief you need

Ryan Harlan, Sports Contributor

We’re almost over halfway through the 2022 football season and there has been some good and some bad with the Beavers so far at the quarterback position. 

Quarterback Chance Nolan looked sharp to start the season in the non-conference slate of games, but with two games with multiple interception games under his belt in Pac-12 Conference play. 

it hasn’t been up to par with what head coach Jonathan Smith expects from his quarterback or any coach for that matter. 

Ben Gulbranson in his limited starts has played well in relief of an injured Nolan but has had some growing pains so far throughout the season, which were present against Stanford and Washington State. 

Smith added in the postgame press conference after USC that Nolan needs to play better and echoed that statement after the game against Utah. I agree with what Smith said, as most of Nolan’s interceptions have been bad judgment calls in the execution of the offense, but also Nolan at times hasn’t been put into a position to succeed either. 

This leads me to a comment by Smith after the Utah game that caught my attention, that the coaches need to be better as well, that comment seemed to have been completely ignored by Beaver fans. I get that Nolan is the starter and that the criticism he received is warranted but it’s only two games and there isn’t a need to call for him to be benched, but when you struggle to execute on offense doesn’t that fall on the offensive coaching staff as well? 

Personally, there were a couple of head-scratching calls by offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren in the early slate of the season that cost opportunities to score points in both matchups against Utah and USC with Nolan starting at quarterback.

These head-scratching calls have even progressed with Ben Gulbranson in at quarterback with Nolan injured, so this doesn’t entirely fall on the quarterback as Smith himself has pointed out post-game.

I understand that the team has sky-high expectations for this season, but when you factor in losses to both Utah and the University of Southern California are two top 25 ranked teams, the team and the fans kind of needed a reality check to where the team is at. The Beavers can compete with anyone but the offense needed to find an identity, which was sorely lacking in those games and that factored into these losses. 

However, what concerns me personawlly is the lack of consistency and execution by the offense and that falls back on the coaches in addition to the players. I mean are we just not going to criticize the play calls by offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren going forward if these struggles continue regardless of who is starting at quarterback? 

I understood from Lindgren what he was thinking with some of his calls in the games against Utah and also looking at the Stanford game. However, Lindgren has tended to overthink play calling in key situations in games and not simplify play calls out for players. What I mean by that is when Lindgren calls a play for Nolan or Gulbranson, it should be what suits their skill sets and get the ball out quickly rather than long developing plays. 

The game that specifically comes to mind for me when not tailoring the game for your players’ skill sets was against Utah. When Nolan exited the game in the first quarter and Gulbranson came in relief for him, Lindgren went away from running the ball in the second half unlike the first half and decided to pass the ball more especially in the red zone, when running the ball against Utah’s defensive front had been effective in the first half. 

I understand that being an offensive play caller you would want to keep the defense honest, but passing the ball wasn’t working that well all game and especially throwing against Utah defensive back Clark Phillips III, who had three interceptions against the Beavers.  

So, to be honest there wasn’t a need to run away from running the ball in the second half when the game was still in reach. I think that it is easy to critique Lindgren and his play calling after the fact but you’d have to think if he doesn’t improve as a play caller that there might be a potential change in play calling going forward. 

I’m not saying directly replace Lindgren but the scrutiny against him in the first half of the season has been warranted so far and to his credit there have been some noticeable improvements in limiting mistakes on offense, putting players in better positions to succeed, and fewer penalties. 

I think that if this doesn’t happen after hitting the easiest part of the schedule then it might be time to be more critical of both Smith and Lindgren on developing quarterbacks on the roster. When you have two coaches on the roster that once played quarterback at the FBS level and they can’t deliver consistent quarterback play, that’s pretty concerning if you ask me. 

However, on the other hand, the quarterback is a tough position to figure out and we saw this season in the PAC-12 as most of the teams in the conference looked to the transfer portal to try to find their guy at the position. I mean Smith did the same as well when he tried to land J.T. Daniels, but ultimately was unsuccessful as Daniels chose West Virginia over Oregon State. 

The main takeaway going forward is that most of these offensive miscues and inconsistencies are not Nolan’s fault entirely or Gulbranson’s. This falls on the entire offense to execute the plays that are called along with the coaching staff to put players in a better position to succeed. 

I expect them to be more cohesive with a veteran team like the Beavers to fix these mistakes and so far they have but doing consistently will be a test for the team going forward.

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