Sunday, February 25, 2024

Oregon State names Trent Bray coach: Beavers elevate defensive coordinator to replace Jonathan Smith

Oregon State is promoting defensive coordinator Trent Bray to head coach to replace Jonathan Smith, the program announced Tuesday. Bray, 41, has been with the Beavers since 2018, serving first as linebackers coach and as defensive coordinator for the past two and a half seasons.

“I’m excited to be able to announce Trent as our next head coach,” Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes said in a statement. “After interviewing several qualified candidates, we realized our top choice, Trent, has already been a mainstay at the Valley Football Center and Reser Stadium. He’s been a part of Beaver Nation for a long time and love for this place is real. The connection and trust he has built with our student athletes is unmatched. His energy and determination as head coach will be a catalyst for continued program success.”

Bray played linebacker for the Beavers from 2002-05. The Pullman, Washington native began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Arizona State in 2008. He previously worked on the Oregon State staff from 2012 to 2014, then made a stop at Nebraska from 2015-17 before landing back at his alma mater when Smith got the job in 2018. Smith left for Michigan State after leading the Beavers to an 8-4 regular season.

“I’d like to thank Scott Barnes and President Jayathi Murthy for this opportunity,” Bray said. “I’ve been a part of Oregon State for a long time, as a coach and a student-athlete, and know how special Beaver Nation is. I’m excited to lead an outstanding group of men our fans can be proud of.”

Under Bray’s guidance, Oregon State ranks No. 35 nationally in total defense and No. 14 in rushing defense following the 2023 regular season. During last season’s 10-3 campaign, the Beavers ranked No. 24 in total defense and No. 16 in scoring defense.

Uncertain times in Corvallis

Bray’s promotion comes at an uncertain time for the Oregon State athletic department as the Pac-12 splinters apart. Ten of the 12 current members are set to depart for either the ACC, Big 12, or Big Ten after this season. Amid realignment, Oregon State and Washington State are the two schools left behind in the Pac-12.

The Beavers and Cougars are in discussions with Mountain West schools about a scheduling arrangement for 2024. But the long-term financial future of both programs remains uncertain without a major television contract to support their athletic department budgets. Barring an unforeseen call from the Big 12 or another league, Oregon State has essentially been stripped of its power conference status for the time being. 

Familiar face for an unprecedented scenario

Amid the uncertainty, Bray should be a calming presence. He was a first-team All Pac-12 performer at linebacker for the Beavers in 2005 and has served nine seasons on the program’s staff. He’s been instrumental in helping Oregon State post an 18-7 mark over the past two seasons and already has a relationship with the administrators who will be attempting to guide the athletic department through a tumultuous time.

Promoting from within should also help the Beavers with roster retention at a time when recruiting new talent will be harder than ever. Oregon State has established itself as one one of the most physical programs on the West Coast, and Bray’s defense has become a major part of that identity. In particular, Oregon State’s run defense has been elite. The Beavers held six opponents under 100 yards rushing this season.

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