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.
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)
Dylan Wynn, Siale Hautau, Bud Delva and Obum Gwachum
Baker Pritchard (DE – transfer), Elu Aydon (DT), Simi Moala(DE) and Leo Fuimaono (DE).
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.
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.
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)