Photo by Casey Sapio / USA Today
Oregon Football

5 Players to Know: Offense & Defense

November 30, 2019

The Beavers' offense has taken a massive step forward this year. They average 31.9 points per game, which is 36th out of 130 FBS teams.

Oregon State finally has found a consistent quarterback in Jake Luton, as well as a good stable of running backs to go along with a few playmakers out wide.

Let’s take a look at the five players on offense you need to know heading into the Civil War.

Jake Luton (6), Quarterback

The 6-7, 229-pound senior has really taken a step up this season. He’s completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,714 yards, and he’s thrown 28 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.

Luton is not a huge threat to run, but has been able to punch in 1 rushing touchdown. He is making better decisions, and that is reflected in his touchdown-to-interception rate of 9.3-to-1; it was 2.5-to-1 last season.

Luton is not the most talented QB, but he uses his size to minimize the effects of the pass rush. He is very effective at getting the ball in his playmakers' hands -- and they can do a lot after the catch.

Artavius Pierce (21), Running Back

The 5-11, 208-pound senior has emerged after not getting more than 68 carries in any of the past two years.

Pierce exploded onto the scene as a freshman, tallying almost 100 carries for 523 yards. In 2019 he has 142 carries for 848 yards and 6 touchdowns. He’s also contributed in the passing game, snagging 22 catches for 159 yards and 1 touchdown.

Pierce has solid size and is able to run up the middle, but he also has enough side-to-side quickness to cut back and pick up a big gain.

Jemar Jefferson (22), Running Back

The 5-10, 214-pound sophomore is the second piece to the Beavers two-headed backfield monster.

Jefferson had an absolutely incredible freshman season, racking up 1,380 yards and 12 touchdowns. So far this year he has 122 carries for 604 yards and 7 touchdowns, and he’s caught 6 passes for 61 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Jefferson has had a weird season, to say the least. He started out as the primary ball carrier but suffered an injury. As a result, he has had some really strong games but also some outings where he hasn’t carried the ball more than 5 times.

Last week he had a fantastic game, rushing for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’ll need to be at his best against a stout Oregon run defense.

Isaiah Hodgins (17), Wide Receiver

The 6-4, 209-pound junior has put together an absolutely fantastic season, emerging one of the better wide receivers in the Pac-12. He has 78 catches for 1,086 yards and a whopping 13 touchdowns.

Hodgins really can do it all, and he excels in being able to get a lot of yards after the catch. He’s also big enough to be able to go up and snag 50-50 balls.

Hodgins is going to be a real test for an Oregon secondary that allowed over 400 yards passing last week.

Noah Togiai (81), Tight End

The 6-4, 246-pounder has finally put it together as a fifth-year senior. He’s second on the team in catches with 40, and he has 377 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Togiai is not going to beat you deep or get a lot of yards after the catch, but he’s fantastic using his body to create space on short throws underneath. He’s a safe option for Luton, and one that he goes to quite often if nothing is open downfield.

The Beavers' defense has been better than expected in some aspects, but it still has a lot of room to improve. Oregon State gives up 35.9 points per game, which ranks 116th out of 130 teams.

Those numbers obviously aren’t great, but they’ve had a few players rise to a higher level than expected. Let’s take a look at those five standouts.

Hamilcar Rashed Jr. (9), Linebacker

The 6-4, 236-pound junior has absolutely terrorized offenses all year. He has 60 tackles, 14 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery.

After having a combined 2.5 sacks in his first two seasons, Rashed has come out of nowhere to lead the Pac-12 in that category. What's more, he’s second in the nation, trailing only future top NFL pick Chase Young.

Rashed is equally adept at putting his hand in the dirt or standing up and get after the quarterback off of the edge. He’s been hard for every team to stop, and he's going to be an absolute challenge for the Oregon offensive line.

Avery Roberts (34), Linebacker

The 6-1, 231-pound sophomore is one of the anchors to this Beaver defense. He leads the team in tackles with 79, and he has added 2 sacks and 2 pass deflections.

Roberts has to help out in the run game a lot, as the Beavers' defensive line just doesn’t have the size to stop runs up the middle. He doesn’t rush the quarterback a ton, but he is quick enough to get home on an A-gap blitz.

Roberts is a good open-field tackler and a very smart player. He will need to be on his game when the Oregon offensive line springs backs into the second level.

Nahshon Wright (21), Defensive Back

The 6-4, 184-pound sophomore is a ballhawk who leads the team in interceptions with 3. He also has 32 tackles and 2 pass deflections.

Wright is long and lanky, and he uses his size to make it difficult for receivers to high-point the ball. He’s not a particularly hard-hitting player, but quarterbacks have to be really accurate on deep balls or Wright will make them pay.

Shawn Wilson (2), Defensive Back

The 5-9, 194-pound senior is a key player for the Beavers. He has 52 tackles, 1 pass deflection and 1 interception.

Now, I’m not listing him because he’s one of the five best players on defense, but rather because he can be exposed in the passing game. He is a decent cover corner, but his lack of height can lead to a matchup advantage for tall receivers.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Beavers choose to line up Wilson, as guys like Juwan Johnson have a tremendous size advantage.

Omar Speights (36), Linebacker 

The 6-1, 233-pound freshman has been one of the pleasant surprises for the Beavers. He’s second on the team in tackles with 61, and he has 2.5 sacks, 2 pass deflections and 1 interception.

Speights plays a lot more like Roberts than Rashed, as he’s not really blitzing the quarterback very often. He’s there to help plug up the run game and help out in coverage -- and he’s done a good job at that. 

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