2012 Oregon State Preview - Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Oregon State Beaver Defense
Preview 2012 - Defense
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What you need to know: The Oregon State defense was a major disappointment in 2011, yielding more than 30 points a game. A turnaround is possible since only a couple of starters from that group need to be replaced. Now that the Beavers are a year older, they need to be a year better. On the first line of defense, the coaches are ecstatic about the ends, but concerned about the tackles. While ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn possess the get-off to become a dominating tandem off the edge, the tackles are pedestrian, an issue for a struggling run defense. The program feels set at linebacker with Feti ‘Unga, Michael Doctor and D.J. Welch. ‘Unga was unable to play a complete season because of an injury, but he was racking up the tackles from the middle in the games he was available. While S Lance Mitchell needs to be replaced, Oregon State has very high hopes for its secondary. Three starters are back, led by Second Team All-Pac-12 CB Jordan Poyer. The team is also eager to get big-hitting S Anthony Watkins back on the field. The borderline all-star, who led the Beavers with 85 tackles a year ago, sat out the spring to recover from shoulder surgery.
Star of the defense: Senior CB Jordan Poyer
Tackles: Anthony Watkins, 85
Sacks: Scott Crichton, 6
Interceptions: Jordan Poyer, 4
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DT Castro Masaniai
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Dylan Wynn
Best pro prospect: Poyer
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Poyer, 2) Sophomore DE Scott Crichton, 3) Senior SS Anthony Watkins
Strength of the defense: The defensive ends, creating pressure, takeaways
Weakness of the defense: The tackles, run defense, red-zone D, third-down defense
After using 2011 to rebuild along the defensive line, Oregon State plans on really reaping the benefits of its efforts this fall. The Beavers are welcoming back four players who started games last fall, the new cornerstones of the front wall. The staff is especially excited about its precocious ends. Sophomore Scott Crichtongot off to an auspicious debut as a starter in all 12 games. Flashing notable drive, athleticism and a knack for stripping the ball, the 6-3, 263-pounder racked up 74 tackles, 14.5 stops for loss, six sacks and a school-record six forced fumbles. The fact that that he was so effective at a young age against the run and the pass is signaling a very bright future for him in Corvallis.
The program is also optimistic about Crichton's partner on the other side, 6-2, 265-pound sophomore Dylan Wynn. He's the classic high-motor scrapper, who never quits on a play, and will fight through the traffic in order to make something happen. On sheer want-to and determination, the seven-game starter chipped in with 44 tackles, 5.5 stops for loss, a sack and five fumble recoveries. With an offseason to polish up his technique, he'll be even harder to block this season.
Among the Beavers looking to earn a bigger role in the end rotation is 6-3, 263-pound senior Rudolf Fifita. He has used his offseason wisely, impressing the coaching staff with his speed, quickness and ability to contain against the run. After playing sparingly in 11 games, and making eight tackles, he's looking for better numbers in 2012.
On the inside, senior Andrew Seumalo is planning on being the steady veteran among the tackles. The former walk-on and son of Beaver D-line coach Joe Seumalo started 11 games last fall, making 34 stops, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Always active and quick to get off the snap, he's capable of generating a push right up the gut.
The likely partner to Seumalo at tackle is senior Castro Masaniai. A prototypical lane-clogger, with little chance of pressuring the pocket, he is in many ways the antithesis of his fellow tackles. At 6-3 and 351 pounds, he's almost impossible to move off his spot, but will benefit by improving his conditioning in the summer. He also has to shake the injury bug that limited him to two starts and seven tackles in 2011.
The coaches are optimistic about the trajectory of Masaniai's backup, 6-3, 275-pound junior Mana Rosa. While he has yet to approach his potential, and made just three tackles in seven games a year ago, the light appeared to finally be going on for him in the spring.
Watch Out For .... Wynn to make a quantum leap in his second season of action. After thriving on sheer will and intensity, he's determined to become a more complete pass rusher for the Beavers. A coach's dream, he practices and plays with a level of passion and ferocity that are certain to produce better results now that the game has gradually started to slow down.
Strength: The bookend. Crichton and Wynn were very good a year ago as freshmen. Now that they're sophomore, look out, Pac-12. The former has more natural ability, but the latter plays with a contagious level of intensity. Both defensive ends are going to warrant extra attention at times in the fall, bringing the heat relentlessly. In time, this could go down as one of the feistiest pass rush duos in recent program history.
Weakness: Stuffing the run. Maybe Masaniai can help with his big frame in the middle. He better be, because the Beavers were trucked routinely in 2011, ranking last in the Pac-12 in run defense. Oregon State yielded an unacceptable 4.8 yards per carry, too often allowing opposing backs to get to the second level unabated.
Outlook: While the Beavers are not quite there yet, the program feels a lot better about the state of the D-line than it did at this time last year. The projected lineup is comprised of players with starting experience, and the young ends are preparing for lift-off. If Crichton and Wynn take the anticipated step forward in their sophomore years, the Oregon State pass rush is something that'll need to schemed for throughout the campaign.
The Beavers linebackers are going to be a seasoned group attempting to make more big stops than it did a year ago. In the middle, senior Feti ‘Ungais going to be the catalyst of the unit. He's a hard-hitting, emotional defender who brings an infectious amount of energy to the field. Still, the program is looking for more from the 6-1, 248-pound enforcer after he made 67 tackles and just 2.5 tackles for loss in 2011.
Providing outstanding cover for ‘Unga on the second team will be 6-3, 235-pound senior Rueben Robinson, who started at least one game at every linebacker position in 2011. While he won't wow onlookers with his speed or big-play ability, his versatility and physicality is a luxury for the coaching staff. In his most productive season as a Beaver, he notched 38 tackles last season.
Back at weakside for a second straight year is 6-0, 223-pound junior Michael Doctor. Essentially a strong safety lining up at linebacker, he's one of the fastest and most agile of the Beavers at this level. Although he's still a little light at the position, and clearly better against the pass than the rush, the Tulsa native still managed to finish second on the team with 78 tackles, adding four stops for loss, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions.
Oregon State feels as if it's developing a rising star at strongside in 6-2, 220-pound sophomore D.J. Welch. From his speed and agility to his love of popping the pads, he has all of the tools to become the next great Beavers linebacker. Largely a special teams player in Year 1, he got his feet in Corvallis by making 18 tackles and a sack. If he can improve his feel for the D and knowledge of his assignments, the first-year learning curve is going to evaporate in a hurry.
Watch Out For .... Welch to build quite a following—in and out of Corvallis—by the midway point of the season. The sophomore just moves so fast in all directions, yet will deploy the ballcarriers' airbags upon impact. He's already drawing favorable comparisons to the program's best linebackers of the past decade, which says a lot about his upside potential.
Strength: Range and coverage skills. The Oregon State staff makes it a priority to recruit undersized linebackers, who can fly to the ball and make plays as pass defenders. This ensemble, especially Doctor and Welch, qualifies, with a collection of hyperactive athletes, who'll travel the length of the field in order to make a stop and dislodge the ball.
Weakness: Run defense. The linebackers get a share of the blame for a run defense that ranked last in the Pac-12 a year ago, allowing 4.8 yards per carry. ‘Unga aside, it's a smallish group that's prone to getting mauled by big and physical offensive lines. The Beavers do a terrific job in pass coverage, but will ultimately be judged on how well they can contain opposing running games.
Outlook: Oregon State needs a little less flash and a lot more substance out of its linebackers in 2012. Yeah, the group, ‘Unga aside, can run like the wind, but can it make the routine plays against the run that this D so desperately needs? The staff is searching for more consistency, especially from those veterans who failed to reach their potential in 2011.
With the returns of three starters, the Beavers feel as if they can't help but be better than a year ago, when breakdowns in pass defense were commonplace. The face of the secondary will be senior CB Jordan Poyer, who is on the verge of becoming one of the nation's top cover corners in his final season of action. A smooth and instinctive athlete from the moment he stepped foot on campus, the 6-0, 190-pound honors candidate has gradually honed his craft as a defender by improving his fundamentals and technique in coverage. The Second Team All-Pac-12 performer made 57 tackles to go along with a team-high four interceptions and a dozen pass breakups in 2011.
Partnering with Poyer at cornerback will once again be 5-10, 186-pound junior Rashaad Reynolds, a starter in all 12 games a year ago. After a rocky start in the lineup, he settled down to finish with 68 tackles and eight pass breakups. Like Poyer, he's a quality all-around athlete, who also played quarterback in high school, and is going to keep getting better as he gets targeted by opposing quarterbacks.
Purely in terms of ability, 6-0, 186-pound junior Sean Martin is the Beavers' best option as a third cornerback. However, his ceiling has been impacted by injuries from the moment he arrived, and a DUII arrest in February sure hasn't aided his cause. If he can stay healthy—and remain out of trouble—he'll be Reynolds' caddy in 2012.
Leading the brigade from strong safety will be Anthony Watkins, last season's leading tackler. While the 6-1, 217-pounder is outstanding in run support, making 85 tackles in 2011, he has work to do in pass coverage. The Beavers tend to use the senior more as a linebacker than a defensive back, preferring to keep him out of situations in which he's on an island with a wide receiver.
The open free safety job looks as if it'll go to 6-3, 213-pound sophomore Ryan Murphy, a budding defender in this defense. As a rookie, he started a pair of games, and contributed 29 stops and three pass breakups. For his size, he's rather quick and agile, but just needs more snaps in order to get comfortable with his role in the defense.
While Murphy and Watkins are enforcers at safety, 5-11, 206-pound sophomore Tyrequek Zimmerman is a lot closer than a cornerback, with the coverage skills to back it up. He's tough and physical, yet also has smooth hips and advanced ball skills. After making eight tackles in 2011, mostly on special teams, he's itching for an expanded role.
Watch Out For .... how well Reynolds holds up as the main target of opposing quarterbacks. Poyer's side of the field will be avoided at all costs, which means Reynolds must be on his best behavior in coverage. After growing immensely down the stretch, the junior is hoping to capture and build on that momentum.
Strength: Run support. While it's less than ideal for defensive backs to make the preponderance of tackles on a defense, at least the Beavers know that their DBs are capable of packing a punch when asked. Watkins and Murphy are true thumpers, and Poyer and Reynolds have never been shy about stepping up and filling running lanes.
Weakness: Red-zone protection. Oregon State ranked 46th nationally in pass defense, but 104th in pass efficiency defense, largely because of the secondary's inability to keep teams out of the end zone. The Beavers yielded 28 touchdown passes, including at least in six games, crumbling at the least opportune time in a game.
Outlook: The Beavers underachieved in the defensive backfield a year ago, but can't possibly disappoint for a second straight season. The program boasts a nice mix of talent, ranging from the cover skills of Poyer to the tenacity in the run game of Watkins and Murphy. While Oregon State is still going to be vulnerable through the air, the team should be a little harder to navigate than it was in 2011.
The Beavers are staring at a mixed bag of expectations heading into the summer. The inconsistent kicker is back, the all-star punter has graduated and the dangerous return man will use his final year to audition for NFL scouts. Sophomore PK Trevor Romaine will be seeking more consistency and accuracy in his second season on the job. In his debut out of high school, he was just 15-of-22 on field goal attempts, including an erratic 3-of-8 from beyond 40 yards.
P Johnny Hekker, who averaged 44 yards in 2011, needs to be replaced, which will be no minor chore. The favorite to fill the role is junior Tim McMullen, a 6-3, 232-pound Aussie who spent the first two years of his college career at Division II Humboldt State. The former basketball players will get creative with his punts, sprinkling in some rugby style on occasion.
The program's primary return man figures to once again be senior Jordan Poyer. The all-league candidate averaged 14.1 yards on 10 punt returns, and has normed almost 26 yards for his career on kickoffs.
Watch Out For… Romaine to improve his accuracy. The talent was there in 2011, but so were the jitters and uncertainty, root causes of a young players who was unable to deliver up to his potential as a rookie. Expect to see a truer Romaine now that he has a full season of experience as a Beaver behind him.
Strength: Poyer. He's a seasoned veteran, a terrific all-around athlete and one of the most dangerous return men in the Pac-12. Whether he's fielding kickoffs or punts, he's capable of positively impacting field position for an Oregon State offense that can use the added support from the special teams.
Weakness: Replacing Hekker. After growing accustomed to the big leg of Hekker, the Beavers are holding its breath that McMullen—or possibly sophomore Keith Kostol--can take the torch and sprint with it. If the replacement is a dud, the defense is going to pay the price for his ineffectiveness.
Outlook: Oregon State's special teams unit could be in store for a dip in performance, unless Romaine and McMullen are both able to exceed expectations. Hekker for years was the signature member of this group, and will not be easily replaced. Look out for Poyer, who doubles as a lockdown corner, and is eager to use his swan song as a launching pad to the NFL.
- 2012 Oregon State Preview |
2012 Oregon State Offense
2012 Oregon State Defense |
2012 Oregon State Depth Chart