Corvallis, Ore. • Quarterback Jake Luton’s debut with Oregon State saw him lead a couple of touchdown drives in the spring game but it wasn’t readily apparent what he was going through health-wise.
Luton had what he thought was just a stomach bug that struck a few weeks before practices began.
“Then maybe five days before spring ball it got way worse, ten-fold worse,” he said. “It stuck around for a while. We tried to do different things to treat it and couldn’t really pinpoint what it was.”
Meanwhile, Luton dropped some 25 pounds from his lanky 6-foot-6 frame. Doctors ran a series of tests, looking at possibilities like food allergies. They found nothing conclusive, he said.
“They ran all the tests. I ended up having a scope, a bunch of different things trying to figure out what was wrong with me,” Luton said when fall camp opened. “I guess just giving it time, and the trainers trying to help me out and get through it, the past few months I’ve felt 100 percent. I never had anything like that before in my life. It was pretty strange.”
Luton went 13-for-21 for 118 yards in the Beavers’ spring game, giving fans a first look at both his considerable height and strong arm. He threw a couple of interceptions, but had a nice 38-yard bullet to Isaiah Hodgins in the first quarter that set up a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Villamin.
He got healthy over the summer, hit the playbook and readied himself for life in the Pac-12. His work was rewarded during fall camp when Beavers coach Gary Andersen gave him the starting job.
“I’ve been putting in the work since I was 6 years old, I started playing flag football, up until now, you know? You think back and really everything that I’ve ever done in my life leads up to now — playing Pac-12 football, where I wanted to be,” he said.
Luton, who wears a bracelet that says “Never Ever Give Up,” transferred to Oregon State from Ventura Community College, where last season he threw for 3,551 yards and 40 touchdowns, both school records.
He competed with Marcus McMaryion and Darell Garretson for the starting job. Soon after Luton was given the nod, McMaryion announced his intention to transfer to Fresno State.
Garretson started at the beginning of last season but he was knocked out by a broken ankle. Backup Conor Blount injured his knee, essentially thrusting McMaryion into the starting role for the Beavers’ final six games. McMaryion threw for 1,286 yards and 10 touchdowns, but also threw five interceptions.
The Beavers finished 4-8 last season, a two-game improvement from the previous year.
Garretson, a senior, will back up Luton this season, with Blount the No. 3 option.
Andersen said he was impressed by Luton’s resolve during the spring ordeal with his mystery ailment.
“Jake’s had some ups and downs since he’s been here and he just couldn’t get healthy in the spring. That was very tough. There were days when (it was) ‘You can go as long as you can go Jake but when you’ve got to get out, you’ve got to get out.’ And that kid never did get out,” Andersen said. “He went through everything every single day and really showed some toughness there. But he was not in that great of shape at that point.”
The Beavers were coming off a season where receiver Seth Collins was also hit with a serious illness that put him in the hospital for the final two weeks. The school did not release the nature of Collins’ illness because of privacy concerns.
Collins, a junior who played quarterback as a freshman in Andersen’s first season, will play at slot receiver this year.