Watch out for Oregon St.'s rising LB D.J. Welch.
There has been a lot of chatter about how well Oregon St. played against Wisconsin from a defensive stand point, and from the portion of the game that I watched, the Beavers did look very good. Oregon St. runs a 4-3 system under defensive coordinator Mark Banker. The unit really struggled last year, allowing more than 30 points a game, but the team returned a lot of starters on the defensive side of the ball and have experience on their side.
One of the changes that Oregon St. showed against Wisconsin was getting into the dime sub-package more often. Banker used a 3-2-6 look as a way to get more speed and athleticism on the field, which may be a direct response to the Beavers' historical struggles against spread formations.
We'll take a look at the Oregon St. defense and special teams after the jump.
At the end spots, So. Scott Crichton (6'3 263 lbs.), and So. Dylan Wynn (6'2 265 lbs.) form a good pair of high motor ends. Crichton tallied 74 tackles, 6 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, and 14.5 tackles for loss last year as a RS Fr. Wynn didn't put up the numbers Crichton did, but he's a similar build and motor end, and did manage 44 tackles and 5 fumble recoveries a year ago.
Another end to watch is Sr. Rudolf Fifita (6'3 263 lbs.). Fifita wasn't used all that much last year, but he had a strong offseason and managed 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and a sack against Wisconsin in his back-up role.
Inside, Oregon St. starts a pair of seniors. Sr. Castro Masaniani (6'3 354 lbs.) is massive and is the typical nose, while Sr. Andrew Seumalo (6'3 290 lbs.), will look to penetrate more. The two tackles were able to get good push against Wisconsin's line and held the Badgers to 35 yards rushing.
Oregon St. may have lost two starters from the linebacking corps, but it looks like a case of addition by subtraction. The leader of the group is returning starter middle linebacker Sr. Feti Taumoepeau (6'2 248 lbs.)(formerly known as Feti Unga). He's a hard hitting, emotional leader, but not the most talented of the group.
The linebackers that match up best against UCLA's spread offense are will linebacker Jr. Michael Doctor (6'0 223 lbs.) and sam linebacker So. D.J. Welch (6'2 225 lbs.). The pair are essentially oversized safeties that bring a lot of athleticism to the field. Welch had 7 tackles against Wisconsin and is truly a rising star in the conference. UCLA had some troubles with Houston's speed at linebacker last week, and these two may prevent even more troubles.
Oregon St. returns three starters in the secondary. The group is led by Sr. Jordan Poyer (6'0 190 lbs.), who has improved every year in Corvalis. Last year, he tallied 57 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 12 pass deflections.
The other corner is Jr. Rashaad Reynolds (5'11 186 lbs.), who also started last season. Reynolds only had one interception last year, but he did manage 68 tackles.
The nickel and dime corners are Sr. Brian Watkins (5'9 185 lbs.) and So. Mishawn Cummings (5'10 190 lbs.).
The strong safety spot is manned by another returning starter, Sr. Anthony Watkins (6'1 218 lbs.). Watkins led the team with 85 tackles last season. Watkins plays much more like a hybrid S/LB, and can be exposed in pass coverage.
Finally, the lone non-returning starter of the group is free safety So. Ryan Murphy (6'3 213 lbs.). Murphy had four tackles and an interception against Wisconsin. Murphy is said to have very good athleticism for his size, and If I recall correctly, Wisconsin really began to move the ball when Murphy went out of the game.
Another player who will see action is back-up safety So. Tyrequek Zimmerman (6'0 206 lbs.). Zimmerman managed 7 tackles against Wisconsin
So. Trevor Romaine returns for his second season. Romaine is 1-2 this year, after hitting 15/22 field goals last year. So. Keith Kostol handles the punting duties. He punted 6 times against Wisconsin, averaging a little north of 40 yards per punt.
So. Malcolm Marable (5'7 172 lbs.) handles the kickoff return duties, but he didn't get much action against Wisconsin. Marable is small enough to hide behind blockers, 5'7 164 lbs., and fast enough to break a seam. Jordan Poyer is the punt returner, and us Bruins might be all too familiar with him. Poyer, of course, returned a punt for a touchdown at the end of the first half against us last year.
That concludes the Oregon St. preview. Fire away with any additional comments and thoughts.