Oregon State quarterback Tristan Gebbia started four games for the Beavers last fall before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury (Leon Neuschwander/for OregonLive)Leon Neuschwander for The Oregonian/OregonLive
CORVALLIS — Eight months after hamstring surgery, there was reason to wonder how loose and mobile Tristan Gebbia might be during Oregon State’s preseason football camp.
The fifth-year junior showed his mobility Friday, smoothly running through scramble and roll-out drills during the Beavers’ opening practice.
There’s no one looser in camp. While the media was interviewing linebacker Jack Colletto on Saturday, Gebbia stood within eyesight trying to distract his teammate with a variety of unartful dance moves.
“Tristan, could you stop?” Colletto said to his playful teammate.
Gebbia has worked his way back from the gruesome hamstring injury, sustained during the final minutes of a 41-38 win over Oregon on Nov. 27, to arguably the quarterback to beat for Oregon State’s starting job. It’s been a painstaking process for Gebbia, who said it wasn’t until mid-July that he was able to throw and run normally during workouts.
“I don’t feel like I missed a step out here. It might as well be Nov. 30 and I didn’t get injured, in my book,” Gebbia said.
The proof comes this week, as the Beavers put on pads for practice and competition intensifies. But at a minimum, Gebbia – who started OSU’s first four games last season – is in the hunt to start the season opener Sept. 4 at Purdue.
Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren believes Gebbia is close to his old form, saying “you can tell he’s put in the work as far as the rehab goes. I anticipate by (Purdue) that he’ll be ready to go.”
In late November, Gebbia had a firm grasp on Oregon State’s quarterback job. He was improving with each start during the 2020 season. The apex came against Oregon, when Gebbia threw for 263 yards and a touchdown. But in trying to give OSU the lead on a quarterback sneak during the final minute, Gebbia sustained a hamstring injury.
Gebbia recalls a few things going through his head at the time. Did Gebbia need to rush off the field to save time (no, as he soon found out when coach Jonathan Smith told him to go down because of the injury)?
Also, “It hurts,” Gebbia said of his suddenly throbbing hamstring. “I was just praying that Chance (Nolan) got in, and he did.”
The pain didn’t subside for a while, and not just physically.
“It’s painful thing to hear that your season’s done,” Gebbia said. “But it’s part of life. Sometimes you’ve gotta roll with the punches and try to come back stronger than ever.”
Gebbia rehabbed through the remainder of the school year, and began throwing in June. All the while, Gebbia watched video as though he was completely healthy, as well as helping OSU quarterbacks during spring practice.
Smith said they would be “smart” in handling Gebbia’s duties during the early days of practice. Through two practices, he’s participated in all the quarterback drills.
Lindgren said he’ll carefully watch Gebbia during 11-on-11 team drills and scrimmages, when the “suddenness” of moves out of the pocket or escaping a pass rusher will test his hamstring.
Gebbia finds himself in a competition for the starting quarterback job with Colorado transfer Sam Noyer, third-year sophomore Chance Nolan and true freshman Sam Vidlak. Noyer was a late entry to the party, as he transferred to OSU in June after an injury to Ben Gulbranson ignited interest from the Beavers.
Gebbia wasn’t surprised the Beavers were interested in Noyer, the Pac-12′s second-team all-conference quarterback in 2020.
“At that point in time, I was pretty confident I was coming back, but there’s some question marks,” Gebbia said. “It’s only going to make us better. All that matters is winning games on Saturdays and whoever can do that best.”
Gebbia sounds very much like a veteran who heads into his fifth college training camp, and third at Oregon State.
“Football is a privilege that can get taken away at any time, for a lot of reasons,” Gebbia said. “Most important thing is to be a good teammate. … really support the guys that we have around here and being the best guy that I can be in the facility. That’s really there is to it. Football can end someday. Sometimes you don’t get to choose when, right?”
–Nick Daschel | ndaschel@oregonian.com | @nickdaschel
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