Jake Luton’s journey to the NFL lasted six years, in three programs

Garry Smits
Florida Times-Union
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Florida Times-Union

Here’s what the Jaguars are getting in Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton, their sixth-round draft pick last week:

• A tough guy: Luton suffered a thoracic spinal fracture during a game against Washington State in 2017 when he was a sophomore with the Beavers. He was immobilized on a board, carted off the field, but walked out of the hospital later that night.

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• A well-traveled guy: a native of Washington, Luton attended three colleges, ending at Oregon State after stops at Idaho and Ventura Community College. He’s played for four coaches in four systems, but he doesn’t view that as anything that’s held back his development.

“I think my college experience was a bit of a journey,” he said. “But I think it’s only made me a better player and a better person.”

• A quiet, laid-back guy — but forceful when required: Oregon State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren tells the story about last year’s pregame meal before facing UCLA in the Rose Bowl. There was a little too much chatter and laughter for Luton, and he stood up and admonished his teammates, telling them it was time to quiet down and focus on the game.

“They went silent, instantly,” Lindgren said. “That’s how much respect they had for him.”

Luton then threw for five touchdowns and 285 yards and scored on a 19-yard run in a 48-31 victory over the Bruins.

• And the Jags are also getting a quarterback who has shown he can rise to the moment. Two games in particular are memorable.

In his second start for Ventura Community College in 2016, Luton threw three interceptions in the first quarter (two went off receivers’ hands) and the Pirates trailed 17-0. He came back to throw four touchdown passes in leading the comeback to a 34-29 victory.

And during his junior season at Oregon State, Luton came off the bench in the second half with the Beavers trailing 31-3 at Colorado and threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the second half to lead OSU to a 41-34 victory in overtime.

“Laser focus …. Ice in his veins,” said Steve Mooshagian, Luton’s coach at Ventura and the former wide receivers coach for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1999-2001. “I’ve seen his growth every step of the way.”


Luton has drawn immediate parallels to Jaguars starter Gardner Minshew II.

They both went to three colleges before finding a home and stardom in the Pac-12. They both were drafted in the sixth round. And they both will arrive at training camp battling for the No. 2 job.

But there are definite size and style differences.

Minshew is spotting the 6-foot-6, 224-pound Luton 6 inches in height. Luton, more of a dropback passer than Minshew, threw for 2,714 yards and 28 touchdowns last year for Oregon State (5-7), with only three interceptions, in a pro-style offense.

There’s another difference between Luton and Minshew: personality. Luton’s college coaches said he was among the most well-liked players on each team but he doesn’t have the outgoing, exuberant persona that Minshew does.

“He’s one of the guys … just a good dude but pretty laid back,” Lindren said.

Mooshagian said Luton would think nothing of bringing his golden lab to quarterback meetings, then leaving the dog in his crate in his office during practice.

“He’s kind of old-school,” Mooshagian said. “The kind of guy you see walking around with his dog, going hunting and fishing, hanging out. He has a lot of friends but doesn’t need a big entourage around him. He’ll be a good teammate.”


Before his senior year at Oregon State, Luton played in spread offenses at Idaho and Ventura. And at Pilchuk High School in Marysville, Wash., Luton played in a Wing-T.

He couldn’t crack the starting lineup at Idaho behind Matt Linehan (the son of NFL coach Scott Linehan) and transferred to Ventura. Luton set school records in 2016 with 3,551 yards and 40 TD passes in 11 games and was named the Southern California Football Association offensive player of the year.

Luton played for two coaching staffs at Oregon State and battled back from two injuries: his spinal fracture in 2017 and a high-ankle sprain that cost him four games in 2018.

He’s adapted every step of the way and rather than lament playing in so many systems for so many coaches and coordinators, Luton said it’s helped him develop into the quarterback he is today.

“I’ve had a lot of great coaches that have taught me a lot of great things,” he said. “I’m just going to soak it all up and learn as much as I can every single day and I think that’s the way you can continue to improve.”

Lindgren said the common denominator is that regardless of what offense Luton played in, he soaked up knowledge of defenses at every step.

Plus, with an extra year of eligibility after his spinal injury as a sophomore, it means Luton has been in the college game for six years.

The one statistic that jumps off the page about Luton is that he threw 27 interceptions in four college seasons, then had only three picks last year.

“He’s played a lot of football,” Lindgren said. “His understanding of defenses really slowed things down for him last year. He made a lot of progress from his junior year to senior year and committed himself to learn the game. He saw how defenses tried to attack him, coverages, pressures and situational football, and that’s what went into how much he valued the football.”

Luton wasn’t reputed to have the strongest arm in the draft and unlike Minshew, doesn’t make much happen on the run. He’s also been labeled “a down-checker” by some NFL scouts.

However, he’s hard-pressed to see that as a negative.

“I think that the coaches take a lot of merit in quarterbacks that take care of the football and I don’t read into that stuff too much,” he said. “Every player brings their own skill set to the table. Mine is that I can stay in the pocket and throw the ball over the field and I take care of the ball. athleticism is never something that I’ll shine at but … I think taking care of the football and not turning it over is a huge one as a QB decision.”

And for those who want to debate Luton’s arm strength, here’s a stat to chew on: On completions of longer than 20 yards last season, he threw for 836 yards, 13 touchdowns and no interceptions.


The Jaguars love Luton’s size, don’t have issues with arm strength and praise his football IQ.

“We liked his size, we liked his release, his arm strength,” said general manager Dave Caldwell. “He is 6’6”, 200-and 40 some odd pounds, and moves well in the pocket. We just felt like with those traits and what he could offer that he could come in and compete for a spot on this roster.”

Caldwell said there were conversations about drafting a quarterback who stylistically is so different from Minshew. But the team liked Luton’s upside too much.

“There's multiple conversations we've had of, 'do you take somebody that is different to your starter?'” Caldwell said. “Do you take somebody that's similar to your starter? And at the end of the day … we decided to pick the guy that throws the best ball, good accuracy, and has got size, and can withstand — take some hits in the pocket.”

Two of his college coaches believe Luton’s arm strength will be more than good enough.

“I’ve seen NFL quarterbacks,” Mooshagian said, referring to his NFL experience. “[Luton] has a better than average arm. It’s a good arm. He’s accurate and he gets rid of it.”

“The kid is big, tall, great size,” Lindgren said. “He’s got a strong arm. The system we used at Oregon State is a pro-style offense that will help him transition to that league. I’ll be excited to watch him.”

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