What you need to know ...
defense was fine, the pass defense was one of the worst in
America. Expect things to even out a big with the freshman
corners who got torched last year now sophomore corners who'll
get torched. There needs to be more of a pass rush from the
ends, and that should come with Jeff Van Orsow and Dorian Smith
each looking to be regulars in the backfield. The no-name
linebackers should be tremendous as the season goes on.
Tackles: Sabby Piscitelli, 53
Sacks: Sabby Piscitelli, 4
Sabby Piscitelli, 4
Star of the defense: Senior SS Sabby Piscitelli
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
FS Al Afalava
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Derrick Doggett
Best pro prospect: Piscitelli
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Piscitelli, 2) DE Jeff
Van Orsow, 3) LB Derrick Doggett
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
This is a good line, but not a great one with
good experience and the potential to get in the backfield on a more
regular basis with more options at end. Joe Rudulph and JUCO transfer
Dorian Smith are good enough to start on the outside, but Joe Lemma is
one of the team's most experienced players and Jeff Van Orsow is on the
verge of stardom. Tackles Ben Siegers and Curtis Coker are experienced
The key to the unit: Use all the experience to do
more. There's no reason this group can't be better at getting to the
Defensive Line Rating: 6.5
- DE Joe Lemma, Sr. - 31 tackles, 2 sacks, 4.5 TFL
One of the defense's most experienced players with 23 straight starts.
He's 257 pounds and strong enough to be even better against the run. He
hasn't been a top pass rusher, but he has enough athleticism to do more
on the left side.
- DT Ben Siegert, Sr. - 18 tackles, 3 sacks, 4.5 TFL
One of the unsung stars on the line over the last few years, the 6-4,
294-pound senior has seen a little of everything over 25 straight
starts. He hasn't quite progressed since a promising freshman season,
but he has grown stronger and should be more effective against the run
thanks to all his experience. He had a tremendous spring.
- DT Curtis Coker, Jr. - 9 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
The new starter up front, the 307-pound Coker is one of the team's
biggest linemen with nice upside, but he's hardly a proven defender. He
played in every game last year and has a little big of experience and
now needs to prove he can be a consistent playmaker.
- DE Jeff Van Orsow, Jr. - 31 tackles, 1 sack, 7 TFL, 2
The star of the show, the 6-4, 267-pound junior appears to be headed for
a monster season after being all but unblockable in spring ball. He has
a non-stop motor combining with tremendous athleticism.
- DE Dorian Smith, Jr.
The star JUCO transfer cranked out 12 sacks last year at the
College of the Desert
CC and is expected to be the team's top new pass rusher. He'll play
behind Jeff Van Orsow and should be a top disruptive force in the
rotation with excellent speed and moves.
- DE Joe Rudulph, Jr. - 15 tackles, 1 sack, 4.5 TFL
Rudulph bulked up to 256 pounds and should be stronger against the run.
He's one of the fastest players on the line with the speed of the
linebacker and should be in a battle for the starting spot on the left
side giving Joe Lemme a big push.
The linebacking corps had a dominant spring
and should be in for a big season if everyone continues to progress.
Linebacker coach Greg Newhouse has this group humming. Derrick Doggett
is a smallish strongside defender who'll make up for it with his
tremendous speed. Alan Darlin is a good looking man in the middle and
Joey LaRoque appears ready to rock on the weakside. The reserves are
inexperienced, but promising.
The key to the unit: All the potential has to mean
production. This crew flew all over the place in spring ball and has to
be as active in live action.
Linebacker Rating: 6.5
- Derrick Doggett, Jr. - 42 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL
Doggett started over the first half of last year before being relegated
to a backup role. The safety-sized 63-, 208-pound junior blew up this
spring showing off his speed and hitting ability as, potentially, the
star of the linebacking corps. He's one of the Pac 10's best special
- Alan Darlin, Jr. - 12 tackles
After playing understudy behind Trent Bray, the 257-pound Barlin gets to
take over in the middle. He's a huge hitter who'll be amazing against
the run. It's asking a lot for him to be Bray, but he won't be far off.
- Joey LaRocque, Jr.
A good-sized 235-pound weakside linebacker, LaRocque played like a
veteran this spring and should be one of the team's steadiest defenders.
He was a JUCO superstar two years ago with 103 tackles and 11.5 sacks,
but he sat out last year
- Bryant Cornell, Soph. - 8 tackles
A star special teamer as a true freshman, the 245-pond sophomore will
rotate with Alan Darlin in the middle. He'll still be a key special
teams player as well as a quick defender. There won't be many tackles
- Isaiah Cook, Soph. - 2 tackles
An undersized 6-2 and 216 pounds, Cook makes up for it with tremendous
speed and athleticism. It took him half the year to get eligible and
then became a good special teamer. He has a great motor and should be a
good special teamer as well as a solid pass defender.
The Beaver pass defense was the worst in the Pac 10 and
one of the worst in America last year allowing close to 300 yards per
game. Things should be better with corners Keenan Lewis and Brandon
Hughes no longer green freshmen. Safety Sabby Piscitelli should be more
of a weapon now that he doesn't have to help out everyone else, but the
free safety spot isn't quite settled as Al Afalava has to prove he can
be consistently effective.
The key to the unit: Stop getting torched. Opposing
passing games averaged a whopping 16.3 yards per catch and 8.6 yards per
Secondary Rating: 6
- CB Keenan Lewis, Soph. - 45 tackles, 11 broken up
The team's best cover corner, Lewis has excellent ball skills and should
be a break up machine after again after leading the team last year. He
got bigger and stronger this last season and should be even better
against the run and should hold up better against the bigger receivers.
- FS Al Afalava, Soph. - 32 tackles
Here's one of the potential openings in the secondary. Afalava wasn't
the best playmaker against the pass last season, but he has great upside
after a year of experience. He hits like a linebacker and made plenty of
tackles despite missing time with a knee injury. Now he has to be more
of an all-around playmaker.
- SS Sabby Piscitelli, Sr. - 53 tackles, 4 interceptions, 8
broken up passes, 3 TFL
There might not be a more productive safety in the Pac 10 this year. He
has a strong 2005 finishing third on the team in tackles, but he had to
clean up too many messes and couldn't concentrate on making plays. At
6-3 and 226 pounds, size isn't an issue as he's one of the league's most
physical defensive backs.
- CB Brandon Hughes, Soph. - 41 tackles, 9 broken up passes
The former wide receiver took his lumps last year at corner, but he made
more than his share of plays and appears to have improved over the
off-season. Now he'll have to hold off top JUCO transfer Coye Francies
for a job despite being one of the team's fastest players.
- CB Coye Francies, Jr.
At 6-1 and with tremendous speed and next level quickness, Francies is
expected to challenge right off the bat for a starting spot. He averaged
17.4 yards per punt return last year at American River JC and picked off
- CB Gerard Lawson, Jr. - 22 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Relegated to a backup role after struggling in the first four games as a
starter, the athletics veteran will get his chance to be a big part of
the rotation behind Keenan Lewis on the left side. He has more than
enough experience to play in nickel or dime packages.
- SS Daniel Drayton, Jr. - 12 tackles
A good special teamer, Drayton doesn't see much time on defense playing
behind Sabby Piscitelli. He has experience and the talent to step in and
may plays, but he's not a free safety.
Alexis Serna will once again be one of the nation's top
placekickers, but the punting game is a question mark needing true
freshman Kyle Loomis to be the real deal.
Sammie Strougher will be the team's main punt and kick returner, but
he'll get plenty of help. The coverage units have to be better.
The key to the unit: Get almost as much production
out of the punting game as last year, and hope Serna's range can
increase to beyond the 50..
Special Teams Rating: 7
- PK Alexis Serna, Jr. - 23-28 FGs, 32-32 extra points
Serna won the Lou Groza Award as the nation' s top placekicker even
though he missed five kicks and showing little range. He nailed six
field goals in the Washington game as part of a huge second half of the
season. He'll be a lock for preseason All-America honors.
- P Kyle Loomis, Fr.
Loomis takes over for the outstanding Sam Paulescu who averaged 43 yards
per kick and put 24 inside the 20. Loomis has a big leg, but he's
starting from scratch getting his first work this fall.