CORVALLIS — B.J. Baylor knows he has two really good running backs ahead of him on the depth chart in Artavis Pierce and Jermar Jefferson.
Still, the redshirt sophomore knows he can make an impact for the Oregon State football team this coming season.
Baylor capped off a strong spring by rushing for 50 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns to help the Orange team to a 27-7 win over the Black in Saturday’s spring game at Reser Stadium.
Jefferson, who burst on the scene last season as a freshman and earned All-American honors after rushing for 1,380 yards and 12 touchdowns, had just one carry for 28 yards on Saturday.
Pierce, who had 408 yards and four scores in nine games last season, had five carries for 30 yards on Saturday.
“I’m just working and getting gains on (Pierce and Jefferson) and skills on them watching them in practice,” Baylor said.
The biggest improvement Baylor said he has made from last season, when he rushed for 80 yards on 24 carries with one touchdown, has been his consistency.
“Last year coming in I was kind of wishy-washy,” Baylor said. “I was doing it sometimes, (not) doing it next time. But this year I’ve been focusing on it and I’ve been doing good.”
Baylor is not the only offensive player to have a breakout spring. Redshirt freshman receiver Jesiah Irish has made a case to earn playing time in the fall.
Irish had five catches for 81 yards, including a 42-yarder from Jake Luton that set up Baylor’s 1-yard touchdown run.
“He made a great play,” said Luton, who completed 6 of 9 passes for 94 yards. “I underthrew it a little bit. He was able to body the corner out a little bit and was able to go up and make a play and that’s kind of just what he’s been doing all spring.”
Added coach Jonathan Smith: “He’s made those types of plays all through the spring. So we feel like he’s definitely a weapon for us.”
Irish played in four games last season with two catches for 23 yards. With Trevon Bradford and Isaiah Hodgins both out for most of the spring, he has had an opportunity to showcase his skill set.
“This spring for me I really tried to come in and learn the offense as much as I could,” Irish said. “I tried to learn the defense, tried to learn the schemes and I came out with a lot more confidence.”
Champ Flemings, who had a 4-yard touchdown reception from Tristan Gebbia, and Kolby Taylor both had three catches on Saturday. Throw in Hodgins, Bradford and Nebraska transfer Tyjon Lindsey, and it is a formidable crew.
“I feel like it’s as deep as we want it to be,” Irish said of the receiving corps. “As much as we want to buy into the process, to buy into this coaching so I feel like it’s up to us in that regard.”
Gebbia, in the running for the starting quarterback position with Luton, also likes the group’s potential.
“You see guys making plays,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who is going to be in there, they are going to step up and make plays. Coach (Kefense Hynson) has been getting those guys right all spring and I think you really got to see it today a little bit.”
Jordan Choukair had a 37-yard field goal for the Orange team.
Ta’Ron Madison had a 3-yard touchdown run for the Black team one play after Aidan Willard connected with Ralph Taufa’asau for a 44-yard pass play.
Overall, Smith said he was pleased with what he saw Saturday, as well as the 15 practices this spring. He likes the improvement of the defense and how that has provided some competition for the offense to elevate its game.
The players also believe they have gotten better this spring but know there is plenty of growth that is still needed over the next few months.
“I think guys are getting better every day and really working on their craft, honing their craft,” said linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray. “That’s the main focus. We’re just trying to get better, each individual is trying to get better. If a bunch of individuals grow, I think we get better as a defense.
“We definitely have some things to clean up, I think that was pretty apparent. But overall we went out, we had fun and I think we have a lot of things to look forward to coming into the fall.”