A former walk-on returned home Thursday as Jonathan Smith took over the reins of Oregon State football.
A near two-month journey to replace Gary Andersen took Athletic Director Scott Barnes and his hired search committee just up Interstate 5 to Montlake to nab the Washington Huskies’ co-offensive coordinator.
The Beavers’ new head coach is very familiar with Oregon State, and during his “re-introduction” in Corvallis, it was clear that home is where the heart is.
“It is great to be home,” Smith told reporters. “At my dream job, in my dream town and my dream school.”
Smith was the heart and soul of the Oregon State’s dream 2000 season when the Beavers were co-Pac-10 champions with an 11-and-1 record and Smith was named MVP of the Fiesta Bowl, and he still proudly sports his title ring.
Now the 38-year-old first-time head coach has come back to raise the Beavers back to Pac-12 prominence after bottoming out at 1-and-11 this year after the mid-season departure of Andersen.
“When that did take place, it did cross my mind, that maybe this is time,” Smith said of Andersen’s leaving. “Maybe this is the time to do this.”
OSU President Ed Ray was pumped talking to the media Thursday welcoming back Smith.
“If you come here and don’t bring your A-game, we are going to hand your butt to you and we have someone that knows how to do that,” Ray said.
The former Beaver walk-on and four-year starter is now back at the place his coaching career began as a graduate assistant under both Dennis Erickson and Mike Riley, and Smith believes that prior experience gives him an edge.
“I know how to sell this place in regards to recruiting,” he said. “I’m very confident that when I go and sit in a room with a mom or a prospective student-athlete, I can genuinely tell them what it is like and how it looks to get it done because I have done it, and it can be done again.”
It’s now up to Smith to not just lead the Beavers out of the basement in the Pac-12 North Division but also to re-engage a disenchanted alumni base.
“Now alumni are going to feel at home again, and there is that cohesiveness to the program,” former Beaver tight end Tim Euhus, who played for OSU from 2001 to 2003, said. “One of our own is in charge. It’s not one of the guys we played for, but it’s actually one of our teammates and we share the same vision he has. We want this place to be great again.”
The current Beavers said they are also glad to have one of their own in charge and to finally have some stability after a season in flux.
“He is a great guy, recruiting for Corvallis,” junior quarterback Jake Luton said. “You hear that this place can be a hard place to recruit to, and I don’t believe that. I think it’s a special place.”
“When I was getting recruited, I was recruited by Coach Smith (at UW), so I kind of built a relationship with him now and now it’s weird because he is my actual coach!” freshman safety and Sherwood High grad David Morris added.
Behind every man is a better woman, and the married father of three knows who the real MVP is.
“We have circled the Northwest in all of our moves and now we are back to square one, which is exactly where we want to be,” Smith said of his wife, Candice. “In this job, slash any coaching job nowadays, you have got to have an elite wife, partner, along with me and I definitely got an elite one.”
Job number one for Smith is to assemble a staff with a strong recruiting base. Barnes said he will make a “mighty investment” to increase the coaching pool money for assistant coaches.
Smith also said he doesn’t envision himself as the offensive play caller, and as for possibly retaining interim head coach Cory Hall, who stepped up after Andersen left, Smith said he planned to meet with him in the coming days.
The new head coach also kept his cards close to the vest regarding what style of play he is planning for the Beavers, saying that he wanted to see more of what he had to work with before making the decision.
Oregon State will kick off its new season under Smith with a big challenge, as the head to the Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio to take on ‘the other” OSU, the Ohio State Buckeyes, on Saturday, September 1, 2018.
Copyright 2017 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.