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2013 Oregon State Preview - Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 1, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Oregon State Beaver Defense


Oregon State Beavers

Preview 2013 - Defense



- 2013 Oregon State Preview | 2013 Oregon State Offense
- 2013 Oregon State Defense | 2013 Oregon State Depth Chart

What you need to know: Defensive coordinator Mark Banker and his Beavers helped initiate a complete defensive turnaround in 2012. Now they’d like to maintain that high level of play for the upcoming season. Oregon State went from 89th nationally in scoring D in 2011 to 22nd a year ago, properly leveraging all of its veteran talent. The 2013 edition welcomes back seven quality starters, such as all-league DE Scott Crichton and CB Rashaad Reynolds, and borderline all-stars in LB Michael Doctor and FS Ryan Murphy. There’s enough talent and leadership for the Beavers to remain very feisty, though shoring up the middle of the D and replacing ball-hawking CB Jordan Poyer must be addressed in August. Oregon State will unveil new starters at defensive tackle, likely a pair of JUCO transfers, and at middle linebacker. Reynolds’ partner in the secondary has yet to be decided, with underrated senior Sean Martin holding a razor-thin margin on another JUCO newcomer, Steven Nelson.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Michael Doctor, 83
Sacks: Scott Crichton, 9
Interceptions: Rashaad Reynolds, 3

Star of the defense: Junior DE Scott Crichton
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior CB Sean Martin or junior Steven Nelson
Unsung star on the rise: Junior FS Ryan Murphy
Best pro prospect: Crichton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Crichton, 2) Senior LB Michael Doctor, 3) Senior CB Rashaad Reynolds
Strength of the defense: The ends, rushing the passer, outside linebackers, pass defense, takeaways, third-down D
Weakness of the defense: The middle of the D, red-zone defense

Defensive Line

On the first line of defense, it’ll be a tale of two stories for Oregon State. Both starting tackles are gone, but the ends will vie to rank among the most disruptive in the Pac-12. Spearheading the pass rush from the outside will be 6-3, 260-pound junior Scott Crichton, who’s been a tall order for opposing tackles in each of his first two years of action. In 2012, he raised the bar from his Freshman All-American debut, racking up 44 tackles, 17.5 stops for loss and nine sacks. Crichton is a naturally-gifted athlete, fueled by an insatiable desire to get to the quarterback. He’s also had a habit of fomenting turnovers, often by stripping the ball with one clean and ferocious swipe.

Forming a bookend with Crichton from the other end position will be 6-2, 260-pound junior Dylan Wynn. He’s an underrated, high-motor type who never quits on a play. On sheer want-to and determination, he notched 49 tackles, two stops for loss and a sack, modest numbers to be sure. However, it should be noted that on many of Crichton’s sacks, it was Wynn who initially flushed the quarterback from the pocket.

Coming off the bench at end will be a couple of heady seniors, 6-5, 286-pound John Braun and 6-4, 234-pound Devon Kell. While neither has played significantly for the Beavers, both prepare as if they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. Braun serves the strongside role, and Kell is more of a situational rusher.

The staff’s concerns are naturally at tackle, where Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai must be replaced. The frontrunners for starting jobs at the end of spring were first-year JUCO transfers. At left tackle, 6-3, 290-pound Edwin Delva is a Miami native who did his apprenticeship at Antelope Valley (Calif.) College. The junior has a lot to learn, but did partake in spring drills and showed signs of being able to hold this job.

Hoping to take charge of right tackle is 6-0, 315-pound junior Siale Hautau, a transfer from Snow (UT) College. He’s built like a nose guard, with a need to drop a few pounds and improve his conditioning. Unfortunately, he broke his hand shortly after the start of spring drills, which is going to stunt his development as a Pac-12 interior lineman.

The veterans bucking for jobs on the inside are 6-3, 275-pound senior Mana Rosa and 6-2, 272-pound sophomore Ali’i Robins. Rosa is a three-time letterwinner who had four stops in 2012. Robins played in just three games last season, but has shown potential this offseason.

Watch Out For .... the removal of the cast on Hautau’s hand. The newcomer is not a luxury item for the D-line. He is an absolute necessity in 2013. And the fact that he was injured in the spring and missed half of the session is cause for concern. Hautau needs to get healthy, get in better shape and prepare to be a fixture inside for the Beavers.
Strength: The bookend. Crichton and Wynn have been a dangerous tandem over the past two seasons, challenging opposing tackles with their speed, intensity and quickness off the snap. The pair works very well together, with Wynn creating chaos and Crichton cleaning up the messes. Their demeanor and approach to the game can become a little contagious to the other Beavers in the huddle.
Weakness: The tackles. Oregon State is going to be thin and unproven inside, a major concern in a league with a lot of good running games. The Beavers ranked third in the Pac-12 against the run a year ago, but that’s not going to be duplicated in 2013. Instead, OSU might be prone to repeating its 2011 performance, when it yielded 4.8 yards per carry.
Outlook: The D-line glass is half-full … or half-empty, depending upon where one sits. The Beavers should have few problems cranking up the pass rush, as Crichton and Wynn continue to hold regular meetings in opposing backfields. However, the situation at tackle is precarious. Oregon State is about to lean on a couple of junior college transfers who’ve yet to play a down of football at this level.
Rating: 7

Linebackers

Third-year starter—and captain— Michael Doctor has one final year of eligibility to anchor the Oregon State linebackers from his weakside position. He’s been a steady force in Corvallis since arriving from Tulsa, leading the 2012 team with a Beaver-best 83 stops, 11 tackles for loss and five passes defended. While not very big at only 6-0 and 225 pounds, Doctor relies on his speed, range and tenacity to make his presence felt from sideline-to-sideline. One of the emotional catalysts of the D, he’s a safe bet to once again pace the squad in tackles, and contend for all-league honors.

Flanking Doctor on the outside will be the starter, junior D.J. Alexander, who was known as D.J. Welch in the first two years of his career. The 6-2, 228-pounder possesses terrific range and athleticism, and has a little better size than Doctor. Among the linebackers, he’s one of the more consistent pass defenders. Alexander started all but two games last season, finishing with 58 tackles, seven stops for loss and 1.5 sacks.

Someone needs to replace Feti ‘Unga and help fill the gaping hole in the middle of the second unit; that someone appears to be sophomore Joel Skotte, the leader entering summer. The 6-2, 232-pounder is a little smaller than the typical Oregon State inside linebacker, but he’s compensating by quickly attacking running and fluidly dropping back in coverage. Skotte is the guy to beat, but he’ll still need to hold off 6-1, 232-pound junior Josh Williams this summer. Although Williams doesn’t move as well, his build and lower body strength are better fits to stuff the run.

Watch Out For .... Skotte to maintain his spot atop the depth chart, but Williams to earn considerable snaps throughout the season. The inside guys appear to be similarly-sized on paper, but they bring something very different to the defense. A quasi-committee might be required to fill the shoes of Unga this fall.
Strength: Range and coverage skills. The Beavers continue to makes it a priority to recruit and sign undersized linebackers, who can fly to the ball and make plays as pass defenders. This collection of defenders, especially Doctor and Alexander, qualifies, with a coterie of manic athletes, who’ll travel the length of the field in order to make a stop, tip a pass or dislodge the ball.
Weakness: The middle. Unga was a rock in Corvallis who’d racked up 155 tackles over the last two seasons. He’ll be missed, especially since a couple of unproven players were left in his wake. The Beavers already have concerns about the interior of their D at defensive tackle, so a new middle linebacker will only further entice opposing teams to run the ball right up the gut.
Outlook: The linebackers are almost a mirror image of the D-line, terrific on the outside, yet tenuous on the inside. Alexander and especially Doctor are dynamic playmakers who’ll make their presence felt all over the field; Doctor’s All-Pac-12 dry spell is about to come to an end this season. However, this group will be judged on how well it stuffs running lanes and how quickly it can develop a new starter in the middle.
Rating: 7

Secondary

Three starters are back in the fold, but elite CB Jordan Poyer isn’t one of them. It shapes up as a very important year for senior CB Rashaad Reynolds, who’s about to become the central figure of a secondary that played rather well a year ago. The 5-11, 186-pounder grew in his second season as the starter, finishing second on the team with 75 tackles, picking off three passes and leading the way with 16 passes defended. Heck, he was even recognized as honorable mention All-Pac-12. But how will he react now that Poyer is no longer around to neutralize the other team’s best receiver? If Reynolds succeeds, his NFL prospects will improve immeasurably.

The other cornerback opening, the one left by Poyer, will require more time to determine a starter. Senior Sean Martin and junior Steven Nelson. The 6-0, 185-pound Martin started three games, and clearly has the edge in experience. He’s a talented all-around cover corner, with the speed and the long arms to hold up well in pass coverage. A year ago, he made 43 tackles and two interceptions. Nelson is a tad shorter at 5-10 and 191 pounds, coming by way of the College of the Sequoias (Calif.). While he has all of the athletic skills needed to hold up in the Pac-12, it remains to be seen if one spring and summer session will be enough to get him comfortable with the defensive scheme.

Both of last year’s safeties return after starting all of last year’s games. At strong safety, junior Tyrequek Zimmerman sat out the spring following toe surgery, but will resume playing again at full strength in the summer. He was a surprise starter in 2012, beating out veteran Anthony Watkins and going on to finish fourth on the team with 63 tackles. The tough and physical 6-0, 211-pounder is surprisingly fluid and agile as well in coverage.

Over at free safety, the coaching staff is very excited about the trajectory of junior Ryan Murphy. He cut his teeth by finishing third on the team with 67 stops, adding a pair of interceptions. However, he looked even better in the spring, a likely harbinger of things to come in the fall. The 6-3, 210-pound Murphy packs the wallop of a linebacker, while playing with the intensity and the ball-hawking skills to never be far from the action. He’s on the verge of becoming an All-Pac-12 defensive back.

The veteran off the bench at safety is 6-0, 189-pound fifth-year senior Steven Christian, Murphy’s backup at free safety. The former transfer from Hawaii played in seven games in his Beavers debut, getting in on five tackles.

Watch Out For .... the outcome of the battle between Martin and Nelson. This is the defense’s version of the quarterback or split end competition on the other side of the ball. The Beavers need someone to become what Reynolds was last year, a cornerback confident and competent enough to handle being targeted by opposing quarterbacks.
Strength: Ball skills. Even without Poyer, the Oregon State defensive backs are going to break quickly on throws, get their fingers on them and take a handful back the other way. The Beavers were third in the Pac-12 with 20 interceptions a year ago, a number they’re aiming to surpass this season.
Weakness: Proven depth. The departures of Poyer and Watkins have left Oregon State a little thin off the bench. Backup CB Jovan Stevenson is a converted running back, and the reserve safeties are green. This could be an ideal landscape for four-star CB Dashon Hunt to work his way into the rotation.
Outlook: The Beavers rebounded swimmingly in the secondary, a trend that ought to continue in 2013. Sure, you don’t get better by losing a player of Poyer’s caliber, but the flip side is that Reynolds, Murphy and Zimmerman are all a year older. All eyes will be on Martin and Nelson, who are attempting to both win a job and not be the weak link of the defensive backfield.
Rating: 8

Special Teams

With little turnover on special teams, Oregon State is hoping that continuity will lead to improved results in 2013. Back for his third season as the team’s placekicker is junior Trevor Romaine. The honorable mention All-Pac-12 pick regrouped from a rocky debut to nail 16-of-18 field goals, while displaying outstanding leg strength on kickoffs.

Punting duties will again be handled by junior Keith Kostol, a second-year regular. In his debut in 2012, he averaged 41.9 yards, caused 23 fair catches and placed 40% of his punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The expectation is that the 6-3, 197-pounder will be even more proficient this season.

With the graduation of Jordan Poyer, Oregon State will be looking to replace its best punter returner. A successor has not been named. Last year’s leading kick returner, though, Terron Ward, is just a junior.

Watch Out For… Romaine to capture the attention of the Lou Groza Award people. The junior has always had good pop in his leg. But now that he’s gained confidence and straightened out his kicks, he’s liable to get recognized as one of the premier kickers in the country.
Strength: Romaine. Not only is he terrific at finishing drives, but he’s also skilled at hamstringing the other team’s drives. The junior’s booming kickoffs were instrumental in Oregon State ranking No. 19 in the country in kick coverage.
Weakness: The return game. Last season, the Beavers stood 87th nationally in punt returns and a dismal 109th on kickoffs. And now that Poyer is in the NFL, a new punt returner must be developed. Someone has to step up in both areas to provide a spark to both the offense and the special teams.
Outlook: The Beavers have regrouped nicely on special teams over the past year. Romaine found the solid footing that eluded him in 2011, and Kostol has done a good job of supplanting Johnny Hekker so far. Next stop is the return game. If Oregon State can generate a spark, this could be one of the four or five most consistent units in the Pac-12.
Rating: 7

- 2013 Oregon State Preview | 2013 Oregon State Offense
- 2013 Oregon State Defense | 2013 Oregon State Depth Chart