CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Oregon State senior quarterback Jake Luton smiled when he was informed that second-year head coach Jonathan Smith did not name a starting quarterback after Saturday's annual spring game at Reser Stadium.
Luton passed for a team-high 1,660 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
"It's my sixth year and all six years I've been in a quarterback competition until like the last week until the games, so it's kind of just what I'm used to," said Luton, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA in the offseason.
Luton would certainly be considered the frontrunner heading into preseason camp in late July. He was 6 of 9 for 94 yards Saturday, leading the Orange team to a 27-7 victory over the Black.
The Beavers, who were 2-10 overall last season and 1-8 in the Pac-12, return to the field in late July to begin preseason camp.
Luton's primary competition is expected to come from sophomore Tristan Gebbia, a transfer from Nebraska who was the Beavers' scout team quarterback last season. He was 7 of 14 for 67 yards and a touchdown Saturday.
"As a team we make sure we go as hard as we can every day and make sure we have a championship mindset," Gebbia said. "The sky's the limit."
The Beavers have a long way to go before they can be considered contenders in the Pac-12 North. They are 14-46 the past five seasons — 6-39 in the Pac-12 — and have not been to a bowl game since 2013.
While the Beavers showed improvement offensively in Smith's first season at the helm, the defense did not. OSU gave up an average of 45.7 points and 536.8 yards per game.
"I just look at the big picture of the 15 (spring practices). We've made some real strides," Smith said of the defense. "I think it's created some real competition to allow the offense to continue to improve."
A player to watch from the 2019 recruiting class is Jordan Whittley, a 6-foot-2, 338-pound senior defensive lineman who has one year of eligibility remaining after transferring from Laney College.
Perhaps the defensive play of the day came late in the scrimmage on a jarring hit by sophomore defensive back Jeffrey Manning Jr. following a reception by freshman receiver Jesiah Irish that went for a short gain.
"As a receiver I never like to get hit, but it's good to see our defense flying around and making plays," said Irish, who had a game-high five catches for 81 yards.
A strength for the Beavers in 2018 was at running back. Jermar Jefferson led all FBS freshmen with 1,380 yards rushing. In limited action Saturday, he gained 28 yards on his only carry.
Jefferson combines with senior Artavis Pierce and sophomore B.J. Baylor to give the Beavers plenty of options in the offensive backfield. Baylor had a team-high 50 yards on 10 carries Saturday with two touchdowns.
"All of us bring something different to the table," said Pierce, who had five carries for 30 yards. "We're ready to grind. It's gonna be a three-headed monster."
Smith was pleased overall with OSU's progress in the 15 spring practices.
"We pushed these guys hard and they responded," he said.
OSU opens the 2019 season at home Aug. 30 against Oklahoma State.
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