There were more than a few games last year where an injury riddled defensive front just couldn’t get the pressure they needed or the big stop on short yardage to put the team over the top. Not to open up any old wounds, but the touchdown at the end of the first half against Stanford was, in my mind, a microcosm of whole season. Good penetration, the running back gets stood up but a talented runner keeps his legs going and instead of a two yard loss, he works his way outside to get the score. A score that ended up being the difference in the game.
So in my mind the big worry for this season beyond the loss of Cooks and half the offensive line was the defensive front seven. Last year, Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau came in as JC transfers to help stabilize a defensive front that lost its two best contributors at tackle. Unfortunately injuries and conditioning kept them from fulfilling their potential. This year, both Delva and Hautau look leaner, meaner and like they are ready to contribute. Delva especially looks like he turned about 20 pounds of insolation into muscle.
Add the impressive frame of Jalen Grimble and you have a huge rotation at tackle that can make a big dent this year in opposing teams plans to run the ball. Watching the three of them, along with Noke Tago, Ali’l Robbins and Brandon Bennett-Jackson OSU has a very effective rotation of as many as six defensive tackles that can keep offenses on their toes. This is where it starts for the whole defense on Wednesday as I saw the Beavers’ inside three offensive linemen struggle to get holes in the middle. At any time, OSU can put two tackles in there that require two blockers each. The numbers are just not going to add up for opposing offenses, and that is before Kyle Peko potentially makes it on the team and before these guys get their last round of workouts leading into the fall.
During the drills against the offensive line, it was incredibly difficult for Sapolu, Bays and Harlow to get much traction in the middle, especially against Delva and Grimble. Both of those guys are not just big bodies, but also very strong and very active. Delva seems to have gotten that quick first few steps back that I saw on his recruitment film and Grimble resembles that high motor interior guy that OSU saw in their 2000 and 2007 teams. Not since 2007 has OSU had this much depth and talent at defensive tackle and it makes a huge difference in how fast our linebackers can play. The defense looks swarming and fast, and it all starts with these guys up front keeping blockers off of them.
I left Wednesday with the distinct feeling that, assuming everyone stays healthy, not only will Stanford have a harder time scoring like that, they are just going to have a harder time in general getting down to the goal line.