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January 3, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Oregon State’s Mike Riley credits new UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith for Beavers’ turnaround in late ’90s

Oregon State's Jonathan Smith, a walk-on quarterback, threw for an OSU-record 469 yards in the Beavers' 35-34 loss at Husky Stadium in 1998. (Seattle Times file photo)

Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith, a walk-on quarterback, threw for an OSU-record 469 yards in the Beavers’ 35-34 loss at Husky Stadium in 1998. (Seattle Times file photo)

A great story here from Oregon State coach Mike Riley, the dean of Pac-12 coaches, on how Jonathan Smith ended up as the quarterback that sparked the turnaround of the OSU program in the late 1990s. Riley was asked recently about Smith — Boise State’s quarterbacks coach the past two seasons — before Oregon State’s matchup against Boise State in the Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl.

On Monday, Smith was named Washington’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under new UW coach Chris Petersen.

From Riley:

“We were recruiting a lineman from his high school in the Pasadena area … and somebody on our staff said we were watching a lineman play and that quarterback can sure throw the ball so when I went down to see the lineman I asked the coach, ‘Can I meet your quarterback?’ and he said sure and so he goes and brings this guy.

“Here comes this 5-10, 175-pound guy and I’m thinking this is not a Pac-10 quarterback. So I introduce myself and we talked and it was a great talk. Here’s this kid, Southern California, looking for some place to go, that’s it, because he wants to get into college football so he could coach. That’s his goal.

“So then we start talking about that and you know, frankly, that was me. I wasn’t going to be a good enough player. I knew I was going to coach so I was going to get my teaching certificate so I could coach one day, so I had a little of empathy for him.

“We start talking, his grandmother lives in Corvallis, so I encourage him to walk on and I even offered him an official visit trip. Come look at us if you want to walk on and if you ever get to be second-string I’ll give you a scholarship. That was the deal.

And so, I’ll make it short, he redshirts, everybody likes him, he’s like third-string quarterback going into his redshirt freshman year, but every time he gets into practice and some live stuff he always moves the team and we weren’t very good at all, we were just trying to build the program. This is 1998.

“I put him in to a game against Arizona we were getting beat in the end I let him go in and he gets a couple of first downs.

“We were about a third of the way through the season and I told the staff we should just let this guy play. We’re going to Husky Stadium next week, let’s put him into the game. We decided to alternate him. We were going to put him in at the end of the first quarter and we’re already down like 17-7 I think and he doesn’t get in because they’ve got the ball until midway through the second quarter.

“Jonathan Smith goes in and throws for 469 yards that day. Breaks the Husky Stadium passing record. Nobody even knew who this kid was. The headline the next day read ‘Jonathan Who?’ and that is the game that turned Oregon State around. … Jonathan became the quarterback and we actually made it look like football after we got it going there and that was fun.

“We have lots of respect, love, everything for Jonathan and I know he’s so proud to be coaching. I’m so excited for him to get to go work with Chris (Petersen) when he was offered that job a couple of years ago.”

Thanks to Billy Hull of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for passing along Riley’s comments.

More on Smith from The Oregonian’s Lindsay Schnell.

NOTE: UW announced today that Petersen and the new assistant coaches will be available for interviews at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

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