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2011 Oregon State Preview - Defense
Oregon State LB Lance Mitchell
Oregon State LB Lance Mitchell
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 17, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Oregon State Beaver Defense


Oregon State Beavers

Preview 2011 - Defense


- 2011 Oregon State Preview | 2011 Oregon State Offense
- 2011 Oregon State Defense | 2011 Oregon State Depth Chart

What you need to know: Whatever coordinator Mark Banker gets paid annually, he’s going to earn every penny of it this season. Heralded for his work as a developer of raw talent and builder of underrated defenses, the coach will have to dig deep to revive a D that’s losing seven starters from a unit that was mediocre last season. There are some decent holdovers to build around, like S Lance Mitchell and DT Dominic Glover, but no one that screams All-America caliber or future first day NFL Draft choice. The Beavers will have to tap into their roots this fall, working a little harder than everyone else in order to narrow the gap. There are considerable holes everywhere, most notably up front where dominant DT Stephen Paea was one of three graduates. Banker’s kids may hold up versus marginal opponents, but better offenses are going to exploit a group that might take half a year to gel.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Lance Mitchell, 74
Sacks: Kevin Frahm, 3
Interceptions: Lance Mitchell, Jordan Poyer, 2

Star of the defense: Senior S Lance Mitchell
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior DE Taylor Henry
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB Jordan Poyer
Best pro prospect: Mitchell
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Mitchell, 2) Senior DT Dominic Glover, 3) Senior CB Brandon Hardin
Strength of the defense: Inside pressure, physicality in the secondary
Weakness of the defense: Turnover in personnel, outside pressure, pass defense, third down defense

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The Beavers will be rebuilding in a big way along the line, one of the defense’s primary goals during the offseason. That’s when to happen when you lose three starters, including an elite talent, such as DT Stephen Paea. Oregon State has had a knack for molding marginal linemen into productive stoppers under coordinator Mark Banker, but the coach and his staff are really going to be tested in that endeavor this fall.

The lone returning starter in the trenches for the Beavers is 6-2, 270-pound Dominic Glover . An original commit to Oregon before spending a year at Saddleback (Calif.) College, he played well in his first year in Corvallis. A starter for eight games, he flashed outstanding quickness and versatility, making 43 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Now bulked up considerably, he’s being asked to move inside and help fill some of the space left by Paea’s graduation.

Assuming Glover remains at tackle, he’s likely to line up next to 6-2, 275-pound senior Kevin Frahm , another beefed up former end who’s been waiting for this opportunity. A veteran of 11 career starts, he operates with an ideal blend of power, speed, and intensity to compensate for his modest size. In his first season at tackle in 2010, he had 33 tackles, 4.5 stops for loss, and three sacks.

Junior Castro Masaniai looks the part as a run-stuffer and space-eater in the middle. A powerful 6-2, 311-pounder, he’s on the mend after needing shoulder surgery last fall. Adding insult to injury, he was arrested for a domestic dispute, and awaits his punishment from the University.

With ends moving to tackle, the Beavers are putting out a help wanted sign for edge rushers. Someone has to step up before the opener. Junior Taylor Henry begins the year as the most experienced player at the position and the only two-time letterwinner. Built more like a middle linebacker at 6-1 and 249 pounds, he possesses the necessary quickness, but can get swallowed up on running plays. He started four games in an injury-prone year, making 18 tackles, 4.5 stops for loss, and a sack. He’s expected to get help from 6-3, 232-pound Rusty Fernando , a high-energy transfer from Glendale (Ariz.) Community College.

The junior has already impressed the coaches with his get-off and quickness around the edge. Junior Andrew Seumalo is much bigger and is better suited for defending the run. A former walk-on and the son of Beaver D-line coach Joe Seumalo, he appeared sparingly in 11 games and made seven tackles.

Watch Out For .... the young kids. Oregon State will be banking on a slew of young players, like 6-4, 316-pound true freshman DT Fred Thompson , to help bolster depth. Thompson, in particular, has the girth and strength to be an important factor in the middle of the line.
Strength: Inside pressure. Even without Paea, the Beavers should be able to shoot the gap with Glover and Frahm and get pressure on the quarterback. Both players are quick off the snap and have fine-tuned techniques, which will frustrate opposing guards and centers.
Weakness: Outside pressure. It’s a new year, but the problem is eerily familiar. Who is going to generate edge pressure? Of the five Beavers to collect at least three sacks in 2010, the only end, Miller, has graduated. The program is very light on talent on the outside, which could force it to seek pressure from the linebackers and safeties.
Outlook: Roll up your sleeves, Beavs. You have a lot of work to do on the defensive line before the season starts. Much like the offensive line, the unit has a bunch of lunch pail types, but not enough show-stoppers in the trenches. They’ll never quit on a play, but stopping the run and pressuring the passer will only occur intermittently against better opponents.
Rating: 7

Linebackers

State of the Unit: Two starters and a whopping six lettermen are gone from last year’s collection of linebackers, leaving the unit scrambling for replacements and depth. Top tackler Dwight Roberson has exhausted his eligibility and Keith Pankey was another four-time letterman who’ll be difficult to replace. Oregon State will rely on a coaching staff that has traditionally done a nice job of overcoming departures on the second line of defense.

The top candidate to become the leader of the unit is 6-1, 225-pound junior Rueben Robinson , who started seven games in the middle last year. One of the biggest hitters of the group, he’s also effective in pass coverage, making 35 tackles a year ago. Robinson will once again tussle with 6-1, 231-pound junior Tony Wilson , who started the other five games inside in 2010. He finally debuted last season, after missing 2009 with an ACL tear, making 35 stops and four tackles for loss. He plays with the right leverage and has keen instincts for the position.

Further depth in the middle will be provided by 6-1, 230-pound junior Feti ‘Unga , the third letterwinner from this area. A physical player, with a habit of getting his nose in the action, he made 32 tackles strictly in a backup role.

On the outside, the most experienced linebacker is 6-2, 230-pound senior Cameron Collins , a former safety still getting comfortable in his new digs at strongside. He started just a pair of games, yet made 39 stops and has the cover skills and measurables to be a force in his final year.

The race at weakside could shape up as 5-11, 221-pound Michael Doctor versus 5-11, 225-pound senior Josh Parish . Doctor rates an edge because of his superior athleticism and range in run defense. He played sparingly in 2010, making 11 tackles in a dozen games, but that changes this fall. Applying pressure will be redshirt freshmen Shaydon Akuna and Michael Bibbee , two favorites of the coaching staff.

Watch Out For .... Mark Banker’s impact on this group. The Beaver defensive coordinator has shed his additional responsibility with the safeties in favor of the linebackers this fall. It can only help. He has long been an outstanding teacher with this program, a skill that’ll come in handy with such an impressionable set of defenders.
Strength: Range. The Beavers make it a priority to recruit undersized linebackers, who can fly to the ball and make plays as pass defenders. This ensemble qualifies, with a collection of hyperactive athletes, who’ll travel the length of the field in order to make a stop and implode upon impact.
Weakness: Height. With few exceptions, like Collins and Bibbee, the Beavers are an undersized bunch averaging about six-feet tall. That’s not going to present problems in run defense, but matching up with tight ends and rangy receivers is going to be a nightmare throughout the year.
Outlook: Over the last two seasons, Oregon State has lost a mess of talent to graduation and unexpected departures. It’s left the program a little thin at linebacker and in a rebuilding phase. Collins has NFL potential and the middle is very deep, but the unit needs to start making more big plays and performing with a higher level of consistency.
Rating: 6.5

Secondary

State of the Unit: In a sea of defensive uncertainty, there are calm waters in the secondary ... relatively speaking. Yes, there’s work to be done within a group that loses a pair of starters, CB James Dockery and S Suaesi Tuimaunei, and ranked 100th nationally in pass efficiency defense. However, a pair of starters do return and the program feels that the only direction is up after last season’s debacle. At least that’ll be the hope until games start being played.

In 6-2, 207-pound senior Lance Mitchell , the Beavers retain a third-year starter and a candidate for All-Pac-12 honors. He has an ideal package for the position, blending speed and size with the soft hands to be a ball-hawking centerfielder. A fine open-field tackler, he’s the team’s leading returning tackler with 74 stops, a pair of interceptions, and three pass breakups.

The other returning starter in the secondary is 6-2, 219-pound senior CB Brandon Hardin , a veteran of 15 career starts. A corner in a safety’s body, he was exposed in coverage at times last year, yielding too many big plays through the air. He did, however, make 63 tackles and force three fumbles, delivering blows like a linebacker.

He’ll likely be joined at cornerback by 5-11, 189-pound junior Jordan Poyer , one of the most dynamic all-around athletes in recent history. An outstanding return man and also a member of the Beaver baseball team, he made 34 tackles, broke up four passes, and picked off two more as a backup.

Junior Rashaad Reynolds is likely to reprise his role as one of the first corners off the bench. The 5-10, 180-pounder earned his first letter a year ago, making 14 tackles. The battle at the other safety spot figures to be between 6-1, 215-pound junior Anthony Watkins and 6-1, 200-pound junior Josh LaGrone . The big-hitting Watkins had 27 tackles in a reserve role last season. LaGrone was far less active, but has better cover skills, which comes at a premium in this group.

Watch Out For .... the suggestions of moving Hardin to safety to not go away. Yeah, yeah, the staff insists he’s a corner, but the results and the tape measure say otherwise. If the young cornerbacks can flatten the learning curve, it might take one or two blown coverages from Hardin to earn him a relocation package.
Strength: Intimidation. For a second straight year, this ought to be one of the more physically imposing defensive backfields in the conference. From corners to safeties, it’s a big and physical bunch that will lower its shoulders with ferocity and aims to separate the man from the ball.
Weakness: Yielding the big plays. Too often, the Beavers got toasted downfield and in the red zone a year ago. And a pair of starters needs to be replaced this fall. In 2010, Oregon State gave up 23 touchdown passes, picked off only 10, and was next to last in yards per attempt in the Pac-10.
Outlook: Improvement is almost inevitable after last season, but how much will be sufficient in a league that has a number of talented passers? While the secondary has potential and decent building blocks, like Mitchell, it has a long way to go in coverage to match the expectations of a demanding coaching staff.
Rating: 7

Special Teams

State of the Unit: The Beavers are coming off an outstanding season on special teams. Maintaining that level of play, however, will require the team to mine a new placekicker from the roster. Justin Kahut leaves a big hole that needs to be filled in the fall, possibly by true freshman Trevor Romaine , a greyshirt who enrolled in the winter term. Using a quick leg snap, he’s drawn rave reviews for the distance of his kicks. He’ll be challenged by redshirt freshman Max Johnson , a lightly recruited local kicker.

The punter is a familiar face, hulking senior Johnny Hekker , a fourth-year starter at the position. Improving each year, he averaged a career-best 41.7 yards a boot in 2010 and placed almost half of his attempts inside the opponents’ 20. Also the unit’s holder, he has the size and leg whip to continue improving in his final year.

Watch Out For… the health of James Rodgers , one of the league’s more dangerous return men. While still struggling from the effects of a knee injury, he has explosive tendencies if he can get back to full strength. Before getting hurt, he averaged almost 29 yards on a dozen kickoff returns and a whopping 18.3 yards on punts.
Strength: The return game. With or without Rodgers, the Beavers will harbor one of the league’s most proficient return games, thanks to the presence of dangerous junior Jordan Poyer . He picked up where Rodgers left off, helping the program rank no lower than No. 6 nationally in both categories.
Weakness: Uncertainty at placekicker. The fall-off is going to be inevitable now that a steady veteran, like Kahut, is being supplanted by an untested rookie. If Romaine or Johnson is shaky, it could be potentially for Oregon State, which has a habit of playing in so many close games.
Outlook: The Beaver special teams unit should again be solid, with the situation at kicker providing some jittery moments. Hekker is an asset for the defense, and the return game and coverage units are above average. If Romaine or Johnson can deliver, it’ll allow assistant Bruce Read to breathe a sigh of relief.
Rating: 7.5

- 2011 Oregon State Preview | 2011 Oregon State Offense
- 2011 Oregon State Defense | 2011 Oregon State Depth Chart