Beaver Football: looking ahead to fall training camp

Jam Griffin (#8) rushes for a touchdown against the Florida Gators at the Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium on Dec. 18. Griffin is one of nine players who recorded a rush during the game.
Jam Griffin (#8) rushes for a touchdown against the Florida Gators at the Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium on Dec. 18. Griffin is one of nine players who recorded a rush during the game.
Jason May

The sound of pads colliding, the sight of footballs flying and the feeling of the turf underneath cleats signals the start of training camp for Oregon State Football this August. 

Heading into the 2023 season, the Oregon State Football Team is coming off of an historic 10-3 season with a bowl game win in the Las Vegas bowl, where the Beavers secured a dominant 30-3 win over the University of Florida Gators. 

There have been only three times in program history where the Beavers have finished the season with 10 wins. The last time the Beavers finished a season with 10 wins was back during the 2006 football season where they finished with a 10-4 record. 

The three things to watch in this upcoming season and training camp that helped the Beavers reach 10 wins in the 2022 season was the defense, the starting quarterback, and the running back room. 

The 10-3 season was due largely to the program’s defense, which took a significant step forward under defensive coordinator Trent Bray. Bray took over as defensive coordinator in 2021 after former defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar was fired with four games left in the 2021 football season. 

The defense improved significantly under Bray’s tenure as defensive coordinator for the Beavers. In 2022, the Beavers led the Pac-12 Conference with 71 passes defended and allowed fewest plays of 10-plus yards. 

The Beaver defense also gave up six fewer points in the 2022 season compared to the 2021 season, which led the PAC-12 Conference in 2022. However, the success of the defense ahead of the 2023 season will be predicated on how Bray fills the departures of defensive backs Rezjohn Wright, Jaydon Grant, Alex Austin, and utility player Jack Colletto, all of who left for the NFL at the end of the season.

Another key factor to the program’s success was starting quarterback Ben Gulbranson, the quarterback who picked up the starting quarterback position when former starting quarterback Chance Nolan suffered a head injury against the Utah Utes.

As the Beavers’ starting quarterback in 2022, Gulbranson guided the team to a 7-1 record as a starter. However, despite his play last season as a starting quarterback, Gulbranson has found himself in a heated quarterback battle that will likely be decided before the season opener on Sept. 3. 

Gulbranson, as a starter for the Beavers in the 2022 season, threw for 1,455 yards and nine touchdowns. Gulbranson also rushed for five touchdowns in his eight starting appearances in the 2022 football season. 

Gulbranson is competing with former Clemson University quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and freshman quarterback Aidan Chiles for the starting quarterback role ahead of the 2023 season. 

These new additions will make for a fascinating quarterback battle to watch for who will be named the starter once training camp opens in early August.

While the starting quarterback position will not be decided for another month, the primary focus of the Oregon State offense is the running back room. 

Running back Damien Martinez played a key role as a starter as a freshman in the team’s offense during the 2022 season. Martinez will also be featured in a similar role ahead of the 2023 season 

Martinez, as a true freshman, ran for 982 yards with seven touchdowns and averaged over six yards per carry. After earning PAC-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year Honors, Martinez is looking to take the next step after having early success as a freshman. 

Martinez was flanked by a pair of veteran running backs last season in Deshaun Fenwick and Jam Griffin. Both Fenwick and Griffin rushed for over 400 yards as change-of-pace running backs from the assertive running style of Martinez. 

While Martinez is the presumed starter at running back for the Beavers ahead of the 2023 season, another running back who could see an increased role this season is Isaiah Newell. Newell did not see much playing time last season but saw action in the rivalry series against Oregon when he rushed for 21 yards and two touchdowns. 

Oregon State Football opens the 2023 season on the road against San Jose State University on Sept. 3. The game between the Beavers and Spartans is set to kickoff at 12:30 p.m. in CEFCU Stadium and the game will be televised on CBS.

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