Monthly Archives: July 2015

Recruiting: Myth or Fact?

As we inch closer to fall camp, I cannot help but focus on recruiting.  Once the season begins, there will be a lot more news to digest, but right now, recruiting tidbits are where the action is.

A lot of message board comments and posts, as well as my renewed interest in Nebraska football, have shown me a few things that I felt obligated to share:

It is easier to recruit to Nebraska than Oregon State

Lets look at some numbers according to Rivals:

Oregon State Recruiting:

Coach School Year Commits By
August 1
# of LOI Signed Class Rank (Rivals)
Mike Riley Nebraska 2016 14 NA 36 (as of July 31, 2015)
Mike Riley Oregon State 2015 4 23 71 (class finished by Gary Andersen)
Mike Riley Oregon State 2014 5 29 54
Mike Riley Oregon State 2013 3 25 39
Mike Riley Oregon State 2012 5 23 39
Mike Riley Oregon State 2011 6 25 56

As you can see, at this time in the last four years, Mike never had more than six recruits committed.  While I don’t have access to the class rankings for those classes as of August 1, i can look at the rankings and see that the highest-ranked team with only six recruits on Rivals today is UCF at No. 88. The average number during that five years was 4.6, so the highest ranking team with 4-5 recruits is No. 88 Colorado (5) and No. 103 South Alabama (4). So the assumption can be made that those classes would have hovered in the high 80s to low 90s by August 1.

Now let’s look at Mike’s current class at Nebraska.  Of the main recruiting sites, Rivals has his class ranked the highest at 36.  247 sports, which uses an average of all the major sites, has Nebraska ranked 25th in the country. Regardless, you can see that Riley has tripled his number of recruits and increased his rankings by more than 50 spots — with virtually the same staff he had over during those five years at OSU. When you look at the coaches who have pulled in recruits, they are Bray, Banker, Cavanaugh and Langsdorf.  All familiar names to Beaver Nation.

Riley was also able to land a 4* recruit, running back Jordan Stevenson, for the 2015 class who was ruled ineligible by Wisconsin. He was being recruited by Alabama, Miami, Tennessee and even Oregon State. Mike was able to win a battle, that at Oregon State, he regularly lost.

We, as fans can love the crap out of Corvallis and Oregon State. We can point to additional factors like history, renewed focus by Riley and his staff, and increased pressure to win by the Nebraska faithful as the reason for this leap. And we would be right. All of those are factors that prove recruiting to Oregon State is harder. Fans don’t get mad, they turn into Eeyore. OSU’s winning tradition is spotty at best and most of it was achieved by Mike Riley himself.  The facilities are worse, the location has no airport, and so on.

All those “excuses” that many Beaver faithful want to poo poo and say are only a hurdle for the unmotivated and uncreative, are playing out before our very own eyes. The exact same coaches who struggled to recruit here are having three times the success somewhere else.

So yes, it is hard to recruit to OSU, and that did not change when Gary Andersen took over, as much as we want it to. He is still going to suffer because of all those things and more. OSU was picked to finish 11th in the worst, most pathetic excuse for journalism I have ever seen in the absolutely puke-inducing Pac-12 Media Poll for 2015. Every school that wants a player we want, has more than enough ammo to put out any orange and black flame that might burn in their minds. To top it all off, there is exactly zeo film anywhere on earth of what OSU will look like against an opponent that doesn’t wear the same uniform.

I paint this bleak picture to show everyone one thing: Gary Andersen and his staff are KILLING IT!

I have outlined the negative, but lets look at what Andersen and crew are doing in spite of all these negatives:

Coach School Year Commits By
August 1
No. of LOI Signed Class Rank (Rivals)
Gary Andersen Oregon State 2016 9 NA 67 (as of July 31, 2015)

In his first spring at Oregon State, Gary has almost doubled the average number of recruits at OSU prior to August 1st, all of this while improving their overall ranking by almost 20 spots. You read that doomsday recap I put up there and now it’s clear that he is doing TWICE as well as the very same coaches who are killing it at Nebraska. This is GREAT news that unfortunately gets bogged down by, pardon my harshness, ignorant, dumbass media and disingenuous coaches recruiting against Oregon State.

Gary Andersen is quietly but rapidly turning around the culture at Oregon State in a way that will pay off huge down the line. Look at what he is doing with, for all intents and purposes, nothing. If the Beavers win early, especially at Michigan, the recruiting landscape for Oregon State will change.

Recruiting is a funny thing. Fans get caught up in their own perceptions and experiences, but what others say about you may be closer to reality than what you say about yourself. Right now, I am enjoying watching both coaches succeed, but I cannot stress enough how amazing of a job Coach Andersen is doing. Those numbers will rise and the quality of recruits will as well, either through re-evaluation or through numbers. Respect the process because the early returns have earned it.

All-Revival Team: Defense

This is the follow up to my list of top offensive players for the Beavers from 1998-2008, a period which I think of being the revival of OSU football. This time I’ll be focusing on the defensive side of the ball, which is no easy feat… But here goes nothing:

Defensive end: DeLawrence Grant… One of the anchors of the 2000 defensive unit that carried the Beavers to the Fiesta Bowl, the JUCO transfer was a perfect blend of speed and power. He helped set the tone for the rest of the defense and was terror in the backfield.
Defensive end: Bill Swancutt… OSU’s all-time sacks leader, he won Pac-10 defensive player of the year honors his senior year. His relentless motor and great technique allowed him to get into the backfield at ease, not just to record sacks, but stuff RBs as well.
Defensive tackle: Dwan Edwards… A two-time All-Pac-10 first team selection, he’s one of the best defensive linemen in OSU history, and has enjoyed a long NFL career. A unheralded recruit from Montana, he emerged as an anchor on the line for three years for the Beavers.
Defensive tackle: Eric Manning… Undersized at 6-1, 297 pounds, Manning played with the strength and explosiveness of a much bigger player. He and Edwards were a nightmare for offensive lines, and you can make a case that Manning was the better of the two.
Linebacker: Nick Barnett… He’s a no-brainer. A typical OSU case of safety turned linebacker who developed into one of the best linebackers in the country. He could do everything well: Make reads, drop back in coverage, tackle, etc. No wonder, he enjoyed a strong NFL career.
Linebacker: Trent Bray… He wasn’t explosive or flashy, but he got the job done better than anyone when it came to wrapping up and tackling offensive players. He used his knowledge of the game and excellent fundamentals to make up for athleticism — and make BIG plays.
Linebacker: Keith Ellison… A JUCO transfer, Ellison was steady as they come. In many regards, he was a lot like Barnett, did a little of everything. He had a great knack for the being in the right spot at the right time. He also was very strong dropping back in coverage.
Cornerback: Dennis Weathersby… Perhaps my fav OSU defender since I became a fan, he made it look so easy and effortless out there, hence his nickname “Lazy D.” He is arguably the best CB in OSU history, and had he not been injured in a car accident, he would’ve done well in the NFL.
Cornerback: Keenan Lewis… He blossomed into quite an all-around corner and the closest the Beavers had to a lockdown corner since Weathersby. Not surprisingly, he’s considered one of the better corners in the NFL today.
Safety: Mitch Meeuwsen… Has there been a more fun safety to watch in OSU history? He was an outstanding playmaker who created a lot of turnovers for the Beavers, and at the most opportune times. Turns out, he also had very underrated athleticism.
Safety: Terrance Carroll… Another stalwart of that 2000 defense, he played with a ton of physicality and aggression; it was like having a fourth linebacker out there… and did I mention he hit like a ton of bricks. Too bad he got run down by Carson Palmer that one time 🙂
Kicker: Alexis Serna… This one doesn’t need much explaining. He’s a great story of tragedy to triumph… having won a Groza, been perfect against the Huskies, and hit clutch field goals — after missing three extra points in his first college start. It’s all about finishing strong, right?
Punter: Sam Paulescu… He easily could be the best punter in OSU history, as he’s the only one to earn All-Pac-10 first team honors. He excelled at directional punting, and in his two season at OSU downed ball inside the 20-yard line a whopping 48 times.

What do you think? Who would be on your all defensive team (1998-2008) that didn’t make the cut on my team. )For the record, it was really hard to leave off Aric Williams, Richard Seigler, Joey Larocque, LaDarious Jackson… and even worse, I probably spaced out on some obvious players…)

Go Beavs! (RW)

All-Revival Team: Offense

The dog days of summer are upon us. What better way to beat the summertime blues (and get hyped up about the upcoming football season) than picking some All-Beavers teams?

But here’s my twist on things: this team is made up of players who played from 1998-2008, a period I like to think of as the “Revival of OSU Football…” It included ending the 27 years of losing seasons, making a bowl game finally, the Fiesta Bowl rout, upsetting top-ranked teams, etc… What a great time to be a Beavers fan!

Quarterback: Jonathan Smith.. He didn’t have the size of Derek Anderson did or the elusiveness that Matt Moore did, but he had moxie that translated to wins. He played arguably the biggest role in OSU’s turnaround — it was fitting that he was named MVP of the Fiesta Bowl.
Running back: Ken Simonton… He was the heart and soul of the Beavers for four years. He was a leader on and off the field. And was there a more fun player to watch then him? I still get the chills thinking about some of his runs, especially that several against USC in 2000.
Wide Receiver: Mike Hass… His numbers speak for themselves. Not only does he hold OSU records, but also Pac-12 ones. He won the Biletnikoff Award in 2005. He had amazing hands and made insane catches look easy. Not bad for a walk-on.
Wide Receiver: Sammie Stroughter… He had a flair for the dramatic, especially on special teams. But he adept at making highlight reel catches, as well as timely ones. Loved the “SAMMIE, SAMMIE, SAMMIE” cheer Beaver Nation did when he lined up for punt returns.
Wide Receiver: Chad Johnson… Despite only playing one season, he made the most of it. His confidence and swagger was instrumental to that 2000 team. And he helped bring OSU national attention as a result of his play. Who can forget that Sports Illustrated cover?
Tight end: Joe Newton… Lost among the fact that he was never quite the same after his injury is that he was a freaking stud of a TE before that. He could run, catch, and block. And he made some clutch catches in his career. He was the total package.
Offensive line: Chris Gibson, Mitch White, Andy Levitre, Roy Schuening, Kyle Devan… This group of linemen had it all. They were smart, tough, hard-working, could be nasty when they needed to be, and most of all, were strong leaders. (Note: Very hard leaving Jeremy Perry off.)

As you can tell, the Fiesta Bowl season influenced many of selections. But I’m betting it might do the same for you. Also, what a heck of a job Mike Riley did laying the foundation for this team. Share who would make your 1998-2008 All-offense team… Did I completely miss on any of my selections?

Go Beavs! (RW)

Predicting the Pac-12 North: Peter’s View

Raju did a great job breaking down the North. I am not going to pick differently than he does to be different or drum up controversy, but our reasoning on the North is a bit different.

1. Oregon
Why: Because I am tired of not.  IF there is a year for them to fall it is 2015.  I am not really sold on them anywhere but running back, and to be honest, losing two NFL draft picks on their line doesn’t scream “Ground & Pound”.  Unfortunately, someone has to knock them off and the rest of the North is not awesome, so as is usual, the ducks will do better than they should because, well, even when they are down, It seems to be at the right time.

Why they slide: in 2013, on OK OSU team went into “The Landfill” and were scoring too fast away from breaking the streak.  What was the difference?  The defense couldn’t stop the run and Marcus Mariotta was not even close to top health. Yet Marcus was still better injured than anyone they had on their team. People just want to say teams reload, but as we have seen in the Post-Quizz backfields at OSU, some losses are harder to overcome than others.

2. California
Why they finish higher: Like Raju, I am buying on Cal. They have almost their whole offense and defense back, have a solid if not exceptional QB and probably the best receivers in the conference.  They also have an underrated running game with a decent offensive line.  Sonny Dykes can score points and if their defense improves at all, they should have no problem winning at least three games in the north. They threw a scare into the ducks last year and with the losses on defense, they may do more than scare them.

Why they slide: This was a bad defense, so hoping it improves is like saying there is no where to go but up.  While Goff is a good passer and a great QB, to be honest, there are a few tough guy coaches in this conference and Cal is not what i would consider a tough team.  They are going to struggle against aggressive defenses like Stanford and Oregon State (yes, I am calling it) as well as dealing with coming out on top of shoot outs with the ducks and WSU.

3. Oregon State
Why they finish higher: Physically, this Beaver Team will match up well with everyone (thank you Coach Simon and hard working players).  While they have huge losses on defense, they also return eight players with starting experience.  On offense, they are the second most experienced team coming in and even with questions at QB, all the new signal caller has to do is get the ball to a ton of play-makers and the Beavers should be able to move the ball well. Like the ducks, OSU will also benefit from the downward trajectory of the rest of the North.

Why they slide: Everything is new.  While I have a North Title on my hope chest, I have no idea what anything will look like. We will be athletic at QB, run a spread formation at times and play 3-4 defense.  Other than that I know nothing so there is a chance they could be way worse than my hope chest version of the Beavs.

4. Stanford
Why they finish higher: Part of me has never liked Coach Shaw. Not the person, just the coach. They have a pedestrian offense and have lived for four years off a defense manufactured by Harbaugh and supplemented by an amazing 2012 recruiting class.  That being said, the quality of athlete they have is higher than most of their opponents and Shaw is not dumb.  They are still going to be a nightmare for the ducks and WSU if those teams cannot stop their run game.  II could see their overall record hover around .500 but their North record be higher.

Why they slide: Who is scary on this team?  Montgomery is gone, their running backs are a bunch of solid but not spectacular players, they lost Peat on the line and have huge losses on defense.  This could be a tough year for the Cardinal, but even at a tough year I don’t think they slide more than 4th. They are just to talented.

5. Washington State
Why they finish higher: Who knows?  They have a goofy offense that scores on a lot of people, but they are having a QB battle with two players that are just not able to burn teams deep. They lost four receivers, two of which were all conference and one was a Biletnikoff finalist.  I can’t see them finishing higher than this, unless a team above is just terrible.

Why they slide: I agree with Raju about Halliday.  He is very underrated in terms of what he brought.  They are going to have a more mobile QB now, but they are going to have to dink and dunk their way to more wins.  Connor’s big arm led to a crazy win over Utah and made it close against the ducks.  Oh and their defense was a dumpster fire last year and they lost their only semblance of a pass rush.

6. Washington
Why they finish higher: Peterson.  That is the only way.  If they win 4 games this year that will be amazing. If they go to any bowl, Peterson should be National Coach of the Year.  They replace so much and not just bodies.  3 first round picks on defense, 1 second round pick on defense, 4 of their offensive linemen, John-Freaking-Ross who might have been the most explosive player in the conference this year.  They lose their QB, all their linebackers, all their defensive linemen and most of their secondary.

There is literally nothing to like here, so unless they had just amazing sitting on the bench last year this will be a tough year for the men in purple.

How do you stack the Pac-12 North teams this season?

Reser Stadium, home of the Oregon State Beavers

Predicting the Pac-12 North

Now that we’ve taken a look at the Pac-12 North rivals and the Beavers position-by-position, Peter and I are taking our best shots at predicting who will finish where. Here goes nothing, and please, feel free to rip us a new one or wholeheartedly agree with us. Either way, Go Beavs!

1. Oregon
Why: It’s partly by default (They did play in the National Championship last season) and partly because the Ducks return the conference’s best group of running backs. Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner are a load and will take pressure off the new starter at quarterback.
Why they slide: It would be easy to point at all of Oregon’s losses on defense, but has it really sunk in that Marcus Mariota is gone? He was a once-in-a-lifetime talent. He put the team on his back numerous times and willed the Ducks to wins.

2. California
Why they finish higher: Jared Goff and his countless, talented wide receivers will put up video game stats this season. It’s hard to imagine any defense slowing them down. And here’s a scary thought, what if that defense is better?
Why they slide: But on the other hand, will the defense continue to lag behind the offense? Or what if Goff gets injured? That would be enough to derail the Golden Bears, especially since they don’t have a standout running back.

3. Stanford
Why they finish higher: Stanford is always well-coached, disciplined, and hits hard. Plus, never count out a team that has a senior QB (Kevin Hogan) — that can make all the difference during crunch time, as well as down the stretch.
Why they slide: Much like Oregon, the Cardinal will be replacing a lot of starters on defense, as well as their offensive line. Not to mention, who will be their playmaker, filling the void of the dangerous Ty Montgomery.

4. Oregon State
Why they finish higher: The Beavers return enough playmakers on both sides of the ball that they could make noise if several things go their way. Under the new coaching staff, the defense could be very tough.
Why they slide: Breaking in a new starter at QB, especially one who has never taken a snap in a college game, is never ideal. Plus, can the defensive line stay healthy and make more of an impact this season?

5. Washington State
Why they finish higher: Mike Leech is unpredictable and his team will play with nothing to lose. So maybe they sneak up in some teams. The Cougars passing game, a Leech-hallmark, also should be solid… 

Why they slide: Conner Halliday was a warrior — his heart and determination will be missed. Plus, what makes a passing attack go? The QB. Nobody can fill his huge shoes right away. And much like Cal, is the defense any better?

6. Washington
Why they finish higher: Honestly, the only reasons they might not finish in last place is because Chris Petersen is their coach, or the Cougs…. coug it. With all their losses,  the Huskies are likely in for a long and difficult season.

How do you stack the Pac-12 North teams this season?

Breaking Down The Beavers: QBs (Peter’s View)

Let’s be honest, most fans are dying to find out what the new Beaver QBs will bring to the table this year. For a fan base that is accustomed to seeing QBs struggle often in their first year as starters, the Beavers not only have all new options at QB, but not a single one has taken a live college snap. Raju did a great job breaking down the QBs in his report, so mine will focus on a little bit different aspect.

Who’s returning:
Nick Mitchell and Marcus McMaryion, both of whom are redshirt freshmen. – Stolen from Raju

Who’s gone:
Sean Mannion (Drafted in the 3rd round by St. Louis), Luke Del Rio (Transferred), Kyle Kempt (Transferred), Brent Vanderveen (Converted to TE), and Tanner Sanders (Converted to TE). – Stolen from Raju

New faces:
Seth Collins (Graduated high school early and participated spring practice.) and Darrell Garretson (Transferred from Utah State. Has to sit out this season, and will have two years to play two years.) – Stolen from Raju

Potential strength:
Beaver fans have long bemoaned the amount of time it took to turn starters into prolific passing machines and exceptional game managers under Riley. Especially, when they could change the channel to a team 37 miles to the south (yet seemingly light-years away) and see QBs coming out and dominating from their first snap. It gets worse when you see players like Solomon from Arizona take his team to the conference Championship. Or whoever UW or WSU throws in there setting records left and right.

So for Beaver Nation this year will be an exciting look at what it means to be a team with a smaller playbook, a simpler route tree, and more athletic signal callers — as well how simple wrinkles can pay huge dividends. The strength of this year’s QBs will be the ability to stretch the field horizontally and vertically all at once, while increasing tempo and being a mystery to defenses as  far  was where the ball is going. Simply put, diversity and simplicity will be OSU’s strength this year at QB.

Potential weakness:
Raju nailed this one. Experience is a huge issue with these players. The good thing is everyone who blocks, catches, or runs the ball will be experienced. The new QB just needs to practice enough that the plays and throws are automatic, and experience will take care of itself.  Just don’t expect the Beaver QB who walks out on the field against Weber State to play the same as the one that takes his first snap in a Civil War.

Way-too-early prediction:
Too many people are anointing one player or another as the starter. With the work going into this summer, the competition in passing drills, and the training in the weight room, it is impossible to know who is going to make the biggest strides. The reality is, big play ability will be a huge factor. The second reality is so will leadership. The player who provides the best chance to move the ball and who the coaches can trust to lead the team will get the call. Whoever can get the ball to the play makers and avoid mistakes will most likely get the nod, even if their own personal big play ability isn’t as high as the other QBs.

Mostly, the team will rally around the leader, and that is the part that the players are working on, earning it in practice, in the weight room, in study sessions, in the classroom, and in the way they push their teammates to be the very best versions of themselves. This will be the most exciting fall camp in recent memory because so much is up in the air and there is so much competition on this team that what we see will be unlike anything we have seen in years. That sounds like a lot of bravado, but you don’t make the team-wide strength and speed gains that they have without the internal changes that are happening.

As usual, Raju nailed it (don’t tell him I said that) by saying we shouldn’t count out anyone because this summer there have been winners and losers every day. We don’t always know who is winning until we see it ourselves.

Go Beavs! (PRO)

Breaking Down the Beavers: QBs

Last but definitely not least, we take a look at the Beavers’ quarterback situation with the final installment of our “Breaking Down the Beavers” series.  This one doesn’t really need much explanation. It’s the position everybody has their eyes on. Who replaces Sean Mannion, one of the most decorated QBs in OSU and Pac-12 history? So without further ado…

Who’s returning:
Nick Mitchell and Marcus McMaryion, both of whom are redshirt freshmen.

Who’s gone:
Sean Mannion (Drafted in the 3rd round by St. Louis), Luke Del Rio (Transfer), Kyle Kempt (Transferred), Brent Vanderveen (Converted to TE), and Tanner Sanders (Converted to TE).

New faces:
Seth Collins (Graduated high school early and participated spring practice.) and Darrell Garretson (Transferred from Utah State. Has to sit out this season, and will have two years to play two years.)

Potential strength:
Gone are the days of tall, strong-armed pocket passers at OSU. This group of QBs will be asked to make plays with both their arms and feet — and at first, don’t be surprised if most of these players look more comfortable scrambling than passing. So this group should be able to extend plays and from time to time hit big off busted plays.

Potential weakness:
Experience, experience, experience. None of the Beavers’ three eligible quarterbacks this season have taken a snap in a real game for OSU. So all of them, not just whoever wins the starting job, will be learning on the fly. As a result, there’s going to be some ups and downs this years, and some silly turnovers.

Way-too-early prediction:
This battle could rage on into the week leading up to the Weber State game. Collins is a highlight-reel and is the popular choice to win the starting nod. But Mitchell is a better passer and could be more consistent moving the ball. But don’t count out McMaryion. He looked good in the Spring Game and could really thrive under the new coaching staff. My guess: Mitchell is the Week 1 starter.

Go Beavs! (RW)

Breaking Down the Beavers: DBs

What about the OSU secondary this season? We’ve got you covered with this “Breaking Down the Beavers” post focusing on Oregon State’s cornerbacks and safeties. At the moment, there appears to be some uncertainty at corner, while safety appears set, despite the loss of both last year’s starters. Scratch that, safety could be the Beavers’ strongest position in 2015. And could a JUCO transfer make the same kind of impact that Steven Nelson did for OSU?

Who’s returning:
Cornerback
Larry Scott (SR), Charles Okownko (SOPH), Chris Hayes (SOPH), Dwayne Williams (FR), Kendall Hill (JR), Devin Chappell (JR), Xavier Crawford (FR), and Naji Patrick (SR).

Safety
Justin Strong (SOPH), Cyril Noland-Lewis (JR), Brandon Arnold (SOPH), and Adam Soesman (FR).

Who’s gone:
Cornerback
Steven Nelson (drafted in 3rd round by Kansas City), Malcolm Marable (graduated), Dashon Hunt (retired due to health reasons), and Kevin Hayes (dismissed for violation of team rules).

Safety
Ryan Murphy (drafted in 7th round by Seattle) andTy Zimmerman (signed as a FA with Kansas City) — both of whom were multiple-year starters for the Beavers.

New faces: 
Cornerback
JUCO transfer Treston DeCloud; incoming freshmen Jay Irvine, Jalen Rakin Moore, Omar Hicks-Enu, and Shawn Wilson.

Potential strength:
Cornerback
Having a senior in Scott helps balance out the inexperience at this position. Williams, Okownko, and Hayes all have potential, but have yet to line up in a game. DeCloud could provide an immediate boost to this unit and should compete for the starting job. And keep an eye on Chappell. The walk-on turned heads during spring ball.

Safety
Not to discount Murphy and Zimmerman’s contributions, but the combination Strong, Lewis, and Arnold, could be an improvement. The first two played quite a bit last season and performed well. They seemed to be everywhere and were sure tacklers, the latter of which Murphy and Zimmerman struggled with at times.

Potential weakness:
Cornerback
Is this unit ready to step up and handle facing Pac-12 offenses week in and out? Quarterbacks are going to go at the OSU corners, so they will need to have a short memory this season and hang in there during rough moments. And not that height matters, but this is not a tall unit, so bigger receivers could pose challenges.

Safety
Will the safeties be asked to do more than they can handle to help the corners this season? Could that put them in tough positions to make plays, either out of position or having to run down opponents? Other than that, I’m having hard time seeing how this unit doesn’t thrive. It has proven it can make plays and all players are year older.

Way-too-early prediction:
Collectively, the OSU secondary should be pretty solid, if not strong this season. Yes, it only returns on starter from last season, but Strong and Noland-Lewis have plenty of experience. And If the front seven plays well, that will take pressure off the starter opposite Scott at corner. Either way, the Beavers shouldn’t have to worry too much about the secondary.

Go Beavs! (RW)

Breaking Down the Beavers: DL

Defensive Line is today’s topic in our “Breaking Down the Beavers” series. Not since 2008 and 2009 has OSU had what would be considered a completely dominant defensive front.  2012 was solid as well, but the Beavers have had to work with smoke and mirrors to some degree in the last five seasons.  Dylan Wynn was basically the cure all in the last two years, being moved to whatever position on the line was not winning its battles.

With the new defensive coaches and a new 3-4 base defensive scheme, OSU’s defensive line, the most under-recruited group on the team in my opinion, will need to find the players that will be able to have the most impact this season, and my guess is that some of the names will be new.

Who’s returning:
At DE: Joswha James (SR), Lavonte Barnett (SR), Titus Failauga (SOPH), LaMone Williams (RFR) and Luke Hollingsworth (JR)

At DT: Jalen Grimble (SR), Kyle Peko (SR), Ali’i Robins (SR), Noke Tago (JR), Kalani Vakameilalo (RFR) and Sumner Houston (RFR)

Who’s gone: 
Dylan Wynn, Siale Hautau, Bud Delva and Obum Gwachum

New faces:
Baker Pritchard (DE – transfer), Elu Aydon (DT), Simi Moala(DE) and Leo Fuimaono (DE).

Potential strength:
One of the reasons the coaches went to an odd front was the lack of experienced bodies and health issues at Defensive Tackle.  With Kyle Peko’s status being uncertain, there was little chance for any type of rotation at defensive tackle in a four man front.  In the 3 man front, all the sudden, you have Grimble and Peko, who could both play nose on passing downs or nose and end on running downs.  That allows OSU the freedom to experiment a bit while still getting the pass rush they need from a true DE and a rushing LB.

SHOULD Peko be ready, it is going to be very difficult for defenses to handle a rotation of Grimble and Peko at nose guard.  If Tago is healthy and ready to go, that is a lot of quick and violent big men to throw at an interior line. In the day of the spread offenses, where doubling the nose or tackle is an every down occurrence, this will be a great boost for OSU, turning what was a weakness into a strength.

Potential weakness:
I am a bit concerned about our pass rush from the defensive end position. While James and Barnett showed flashes last year, OSU is going to need to apply a lot of pressure if for no other reason than to protect their corners a bit as they get their feet wet.  Pritchard showed some speed off the edge in the spring game, and James is athletic enough to do it.  With a 3-4 front, there may only be a need for one solid pass rushing end, but to be honest, I would have loved to have Obum again this year.

Way-too-early prediction:
The post Wynn era begins and it will be interesting.  I really hope that the defensive line can get healthy and eligible because the talent is there for sure to be a solid if not spectacular unit.  The problem is, next to every name is a question mark.  Are the DT’s all healthy? Will Peko finally get eligible? Will James and Barnett take the next step?  Is Pritchard the answer for our pass rush woes?  How much improvement have Hollingsworth and Failauga made?

My prediction is cloudy at best, but I think the pieces are there to be a decent front.  The ceiling is high in terms of potential, but there are too many questions for me to say that this will be  an outright strength of this team.  Only time will tell, and time insists on adhering to this silly month of July.

Go Beavs! (PRO)

Breaking Down the Beavers: LBs

Linebackers are the focus of the latest in our “Breaking Down the Beavers” series. Dating back to the Jerry Pettibone days, OSU has churned out a lot of productive players at this position, including Bryan Jones, Jonathan Jackson, Nick Barnett, Trent Bray, Keith Ellison — just to name a few. In fact, for awhile, local media and fans dubbed OSU, “Linebacker University West.” However, in recent years, this unit has struggled with injuries and inconsistency.

But I’m hopeful that linebacker becomes a keystone of OSU football under this new coaching staff… maybe a unit that flies around making plays. 🙂 That said, the Beavers will enter this season with new starters at each linebacker spot, which means there will be some growing pains as the players learn to work with each other and within a new defensive scheme.

Who’s returning:
Rommel Mageo (JR), Caleb Saulo (JR), Darrell Songy (SOPH), Kyle Haley (JR), Ricky Liuchan (FR), Jonathan Willis (FR), Bright Ugwoegbu (FR), Davd Henry (SOPH), and T.J. Hufanga (SOPH).

Who’s gone: 
D.J. Alexander (drafted in 5th round by Kansas City)), Michael Doctor (graduated), and Jabral Johnson (graduated) — all of whom were starters.

New faces:
OSU only signed one linebacker in its 2015 recruiting class, Christian Folau. A 3-star, he will be serving an LDS mission this season.

Potential strength:
Don’t underestimate the return of Songy, who missed all of last season due to suspension. He was a special teams standout in 2013 and drew raves for his intensity and hard-hitting style. Fortunately, he was able to use a redshirt season last year, and this spring showed he’s ready to make up for lost time. Coaches not only singled out his play on the field, but his leadership. He could be the vocal leader leader the OSU defense has seemingly lacked in recent years.

Potential weakness:
Songy and Mageo figure to be locks to start — so who fills the other spot (or two if the Beavers use 3-4 this season)? Saulo has the most experience, but will have to hold off talented youngsters such as Ugwoegbu and Willis. And don’t forget about Haley, a JUCO transfer from last year. Is it his time to shine? The Beavers need their linebackers to anchor their defense this season, with questions on the line and depth issues in the secondary.

Way-too-early prediction:
This unit has the depth, experience, and talent to be flourish this season. And I think it will under the new coaching staff. At the very least, the Beavers linebackers will play aggressive, hit hard, and swarm. That alone in itself would be a big step toward establishing the unit as the Beavers’ calling card on defense.

Go Beavs! (RW)