Return of the Beavers

A collection of Beaver football, volleyball and soccer players, as well as Coach Steve Simmons of the men’s soccer team.

Zbigniew Sikora, Photo Chief

As the trees that line the streets of Oregon State University turn red and orange, students begin to return to Corvallis for the 2017-2018 academic year, and with the cool autumn air comes a wave of excitement for Beaver sports fans. Gone are the days of Little League games monopolizing time slots on ESPN. They have been replaced with long-anticipated football, soccer and volleyball matches. Fans in the Best College Town in the Pac-12 Conference are ready for the fall sports season—hungrily awaiting weekly tailgates, fiery rivalries and heart-pounding moments that will shape the history of OSU athletics.


Last year, the OSU football team ended a disappointing season on a high note, securing a decisive 34-24 win over in-state rival University of Oregon. The eight-year losing streak against the Ducks was snapped with the help of running back Ryan Nall, who totalled 189 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns during the game. The Beavers concluded the 2016-2017 season with a record of 4-8, going 3-6 in Pac-12 play.

Nall will be the main ball carrier this season, but the depth chart will be heavily stocked with quality backs, including sophomore Artavis Pierce, senior Trevorris Johnson and former Duck Thomas Tyner Jr., who is looking to rekindle his football career with the Beavers. OSU Football Head Coach Gary Andersen also expects to see freshman Calvin Tyler, Jr. handle a sizable amount of carries.

One of the key changes coming into the new season is the introduction of Jake Luton as the starting quarterback, who beat out Marcus McMaryion and Darell Garretson during training camp. Luton transferred from Ventura Community College, where he was recognized as a Junior College All-American and National Conference Player of the Year.

Luton’s ability to throw the ball down the field will be crucial for OSU this season. Last year, the Beavers ranked 113th in the nation in total passing yards and ended the season with 2,086 passing yards and an average of 173.8 yards per game. The lack of an efficient passing game was partially due to a rapid series of changes at the quarterback position. Garretson served as starter for the 2016 season until the Oct. 15 game against Utah, where he and backup Conor Blount both sustained season-ending injuries. Quarterbacking duties then fell to McMaryion who started for the last six games of the season. 

“The emphasis (is) on throwing the ball and having a throw game that is successful. There are some good pieces of the puzzle. I like the receiving core,” Andersen said. “We have to be able to throw the ball down the field. It will loosen up the run game; it will back the safeties off the ball a bit. Those will become big threats for us.”

Luton will have a core of receivers to throw deep to this season, including veteran wide receiver Jordan Villamin. Villamin has totalled 1,491 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first three years with the Beavers, and he is only two touchdowns away from becoming one of the Beavers’ top 10 players in all-time career touchdowns. Villamin saw a drop in production last year, totalling only 253 yards and one touchdown. But after a productive offseason, Andersen believes Villamin will have a much better performance this year.

“I expect Jordan to have the year that we all want him to have,” Andersen said. “Coach Phillips has done a tremendous job of getting him to his ideal weight and to an ideal position to be able to move forward as a quality, potentially game-changing student-athlete.”

Men’s Soccer

The OSU men’s soccer team is entering the 2017-2018 season as a dark horse in the Pac-12, riding a wave of momentum from the end of last year. While the Beavers noted a 7-8-3 record with 3-5-2 in Pac-12 play in the previous season, they finished strong by winning three out of their last four games, including wins against No. 21 San Diego State and No. 14 Washington.

“I thought at the end of the season last year we were more aggressive, and that fits the nature of our players’ DNA,” said Head Coach Steve Simmons. “Our expectation is to continue that aggression and be effective with it.”

Simmons also noted the importance of their returning upperclassmen: eight juniors (one redshirt) and five seniors, including striker Timmy Mueller. Mueller is a three-time All-Pac-12 player, having most recently been named as a member of the conference’s 2017-2018 preseason team. Mueller was the second-leading scorer on last year’s squad, notching five goals and two assists. Entering his final season with OSU, Mueller is ready to define the legacy for his class.

“I’m not nervous that it’s the last season. I just want to leave as much on the field as I can,” Mueller said. “We are a team that will not stop; we will win every ball. We are the battlers: we will play the full 90 minutes and then some. That’s the kind of legacy and mentality that we as a whole group of seniors want to leave behind.”

Simmons shares Mueller’s passion for leaving behind a legacy as a group, not as individuals. Simmons is entering his ninth year as head coach and has 70 career wins under his belt. Over the course of his tenure as both head coach and assistant coach for the Beavers, Simmons has mentored many student-athletes, and their success is the driving force behind his determination to continually improve.  

“We will focus on us, full-well knowing those that were before us were fantastic players, great people—and that’s an honor,” Simmons said. “We want to leave the jersey in a better place than we found it. That’s easier said than done, and so the challenge is set.”


“I’d like to double again.”

Those were the words of OSU Volleyball Head Coach Mark Barnard when asked about last year’s success in doubling the team’s win total in his first year at the helm.

Last year, Barnard coached the Beavers to a season of 12-19, 5-15 in conference play, after he transitioned into the job from associate head coach, a position he had held since 2008.

“While the role is new here, the role of being a head coach is not new. I knew what I was getting into,” Barnard said.

Since 2014, Barnard has spent his offseasons as the head coach of the Australian women’s national team. He previously held the the assistant coach position for the team from 1997 to 2001. In his first year, Barnard was able to boost the national team from being ranked 100th to 46th.

The Beavers will be returning nine upperclassmen, including senior All-American Mary-Kate Marshall. Adding to her sizable list of awards and recognitions, Marshall was recently named to the preseason All-Pac-12 team for the second year in a row.

“I like getting awards, but (the mindset) is mainly to keep focusing on the team and focusing on our goals for the season,” Marshall said. “It also came out that we were predicted to get 10th in the Pac-12 and so I am more focused on that. Our goal this season is to prove everyone wrong and to get to the NCAA tournament. I’m more focused on that than my individual awards.”

The seasoned core is further strengthened by this year’s recruiting class, which is ranked 19th in the nation.

“This is what we think they can do. But it is really a matter of, when they come here, what can they do?” Barnard said. “They have to win their spot just like everyone else.”

A strong recruiting class and proven veterans provide the Beavers with a situation many teams would like to have: a depth chart where every player—up and down the roster—can hold their own.

“This year, the difference I think we have is that we have a great level of depth in all the positions,” Barnard said. “Last year, we had depth; this year, we have quality of depth.”

Not only is the team stronger than ever physically, but they are developing mentally as well, thanks to Assistant Coach Ron Zwerver. An Olympic gold and silver medalist in men’s volleyball, Zwerver led the Dutch national team to a first-place finish in 1996 and second-place finish in 1992.

“You get a lot of players in here that are physically very talented, but, mentally, they don’t know what they don’t know,” Barnard said. “Ron’s able to given them an insight of somebody who was the best in the world.”

The Beavers will need this talent and guidance as they fight to earn a top spot in the Pac-12. In the conference’s preseason coaches poll, the Beavers were ranked tenth.

“That’s a calculated guess and I think they’re wrong,” Barnard said. “If we continue that trend of doubling the wins, we won’t be tenth.

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