Most 2017 signees will spend next year preparing for bigger roles as redshirts or depth-providers on some talented Pac-12 rosters. But a select few will become immediate contributors and names that readers should start paying attention to now.
Which of the incoming Pac-12 freshmen will make major contributions for their teams in 2017? The Pac-12 blog picks the recruit most likely to make the biggest impact for each team.
Team: Oregon State
Player: QB Jake Luton
Why he will make an instant impact: Last season, the Beavers had several quarterbacks on the roster but none who made the kind of impact that Gary Andersen might’ve hoped for in 2016. This year, that’s the biggest necessity for improvement on the field and in the Pac-12 standings -- a signal-caller who makes smart decisions with his arm and feet. And Oregon State might be in luck because that’s what Luton -- a juco transfer out of Ventura College -- brings to the table.
Luton is ranked as the No. 4 junior college quarterback, and the ESPN analysts were impressed with him, writing that he’s a “good-looking passer who will take some chances but has physical tools to be a factor right away.” And amidst a crowded field of quarterbacks who were given their shot last season, he might have a chance to step in and be that factor for the Beavs.
At 6-foot-7, Luton is the tallest quarterback -- by far -- of the Beavers’ options (next tallest is Mason Moran at 6-3), but don’t let his height fool you into thinking he’s only a pocket passer. ESPN analysts called Luton a “deceptively good runner with instincts.” With that height and an ability to not only extend plays with his feet but make throws on the run, he could really excel under Kevin McGiven.
And though running back Ryan Nall is going to have a huge role in the Oregon State offense next fall, don’t think that this is going to become too much of a run-only offense. The Beavers have a talented stock of wide receivers despite losing leading receiver Victor Bolden to graduation. Jordan Villamin and Timmy Hernandez are both back and ready to take on larger roles in the offense. Wide receiver Seth Collins, who was hospitalized this winter, may or may not be back with the Beavers for the spring, but Andersen sounded optimistic about Collins’ work ethic to get back when he spoke about the wide receiver at Oregon State’s signing day. And if that’s not enough, three of the top four signees in the 2017 class were wide receivers.
Oregon State needs to throw the ball with better accuracy to not only take some of the pressure of Nall, but to make this offense one that can compete better in the Pac-12. There was plenty of improvement between 2015 and 2016. Now, that improvement needs to come in the pass game. And with a quarterback like Luton who steps on campus both physically and mentally ready to go, it’s not a long shot to think he’ll be the No. 1 guy coming out of the spring.