Oregon State football is coming back to Bend this week for the final leg of the 2018 “Beaver State Tour,” which dates back to May and included stops in Portland, Medford, Salem and Eugene.

“We’re definitely looking forward to it, knowing there’s a bunch of Beavers out there (in Central Oregon),” first-year OSU head coach Jonathan Smith said Thursday in a phone interview from Corvallis. “Having the scrimmage in front of a crowd of Beaver fans in that area, I’m looking forward to that.”

The Beavers’ open scrimmages at Summit High School have attracted hundreds of spectators in each of the past two years. This year, the team will practice in Corvallis on Tuesday before boarding buses to Bend, where it will again stay at the OSU-Cascades campus. On Wednesday, the squad will hold a closed walk-through at Summit before some team bonding; players and coaches plan to go bowling in Bend on their second day in town. (The bowling outing is closed to the public.)

Thursday at noon, the Beavers will scrimmage, again at Summit. The scrimmage is open to the public and will be followed by an autograph session for fans.

Smith, who said he has visited Central Oregon before to recruit, acknowledged the value of these trips in attracting in-state prospects.

“I don’t think it hurts recruiting being in that area,” he said. “Getting our name out and having a presence in Bend will help.”

Meeting fans and cementing their presence in Bend will be a focus for the Beavers, but the trip also serves as a dress rehearsal of sorts. Oregon State opens its season at No. 5 Ohio State on Sept. 1. In terms of mental preparation and travel plans, Smith said his team is treating Bend like one of the upcoming season’s six road games.

“In some ways, we’re going to try and re-create the trip to Ohio,” he said. “We’re going to go through a lot of the same routines that we would for a road game.”

Smith said the change in environment will be good for his players, who have been practicing at their home facilities in Corvallis since the start of preseason camp. Breaking routine and building camaraderie will, according to Smith, better prepare the Beavers for the rigors of the regular season, one in which they hope to improve on 2017’s 1-11 record.

Right now, though, Smith said he is pleased with what he has seen so far in camp.

“I feel like we’ve got good energy and work taking place through camp,” he said. “We’ve improved with every practice, and have been enjoying the hard work we’ve put in. I think it’s about time we had a change in environment to get out of our comfort zone a bit.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307, rclarke@bendbulletin.com

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