Just a year ago, the Oregon State football team was filled with optimism and poised for a return to the postseason.

Heading into their third season under head coach Gary Andersen, the Beavers believed they had the tools to get to a bowl for the first time in four years.

Heading into this year, the Beavers are hitting the reset button.

This month, Buffzone.com is previewing each of Colorado's opponents, with this installment focusing on Oregon State, which will visit Folsom Field on Oct. 27.

Former OSU quarterback Jonathan Smith was hired in the offseason to rebuild a program that is coming off its worst season since 1980, going 1-11 overall and 0-9 in the Pac-12.

CU’s Jase Franke takes down Oregon State’s Artavis Pierce during their game in 2016.
CU's Jase Franke takes down Oregon State's Artavis Pierce during their game in 2016. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

"I know what it looks like to transition, change a culture and win a championship as a coach and obviously as a player," Smith said to OSU media when hired.

As a player, Smith quarterbacked Oregon State to the Pac-10 title in 2000 — the Beavers' only conference title since 1964.

As a coach, Smith is leading a team for the first time, but he spent the past four years helping Washington become one of the best teams in the country. Smith, 39, was offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Washington before returning to his alma mater.

"We definitely have work to do ... but, I like where we're headed," Smith said at the end of spring. "I think we have some players here, for sure."


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The theme of spring seemed to be less about the talent, however, and more about building team camaraderie.

"Something that's really come into play ever since he came in is making sure the chemistry is really strong," quarterback Jake Luton said in spring. "We're all enjoying each other, we're coming out here, we're having fun and everybody knows everything about one another because at the end of the day, we're brothers."

For some of the Beavers, Smith is their fourth head coach. Mike Riley was head coach from 2003-14, but left for Nebraska in 2015. Andersen then took over, but quit after a 1-5 start last year, leaving interim coach Cory Hall to finish the season.

Quarterback Conor Blount said that with Smith, "There's a different culture, for sure."

Smith has emphasized the importance of coming together as a complete team, not just as offensive and defensive units. That message seems to have resonated with players.

"It's a team out there; it's a brotherhood," safety Jalen Moore said to local media. "He's doing a really good job of helping everybody to get that unity on the team. I feel like a lot of guys this spring got closer, which is good. We're getting closer as a team, which we need to win games."

Of course, the Beavers also need to find a quarterback. Luton, Blount and others competed in the spring. Luton, who started four games last year, is the most experienced of the group, but it's a competition that Smith said will go into the fall.

"Those guys have done some (good) things," Smith said at the end of spring football. "I think this thing is a thorough process on that end. We're not setting any kind of timeline of when we want to name a guy this, that or the other, but I like where that group is at."

There's no timeline on when the Beavers will get back to their winning ways, either, but Smith has been pleased with the start of his tenure.

"I like the direction we're headed," he said. "Are we there yet? No, but we're working to get there."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.