Life on the OSU d-line after Paea

THEIR COUNTERPARTS will get more press this offseason -- improved play on the o-line is paramount for the Beavs in 2011 -- but significant retooling awaits the Beaver d-line, too. Headliner Stephen Paea is gone, lost to graduation but so are fellow starting DT Brennan Olander and starting d-end Gabe Miller. With that comes uncertainty. It also means opportunities galore.

The big question on the d-line this spring is how ready are a number of Beavers to not only start, but excel, at the Pac-12 level. And OSU could really do with multiple players doing just that -- Oregon State was eighth in total defense in the Pac-10 this past season, and dead last in opponents' third-down conversions allowed.

Senior Kevin Frahm, who moved to d-tackle from d-end last year, played in all 12 games last year, starting three. He figures to head into the spring as the odds-on favorite to land one of the starting jobs on the inside.

Frahm is one of the most impressive Beavers in the weight room, and the hope is that in his second year at DT, that will translate more and more to on-field production. Although, it should be pointed out that Frahm had 33 tackles last year, 4.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks – pretty good numbers for a DT who started but three games. In comparison to the gold standard, Paea had 45 tackles, 10 TFL and six sacks in 12 starts.

Elsewhere on the d-tackle front, Castro Masaniai is the only other Beaver with appreciable Pac-10 experience. A shoulder separation cost him the last five games of the 2010 season. Before that, however, he was a rising presence on the interior. Manu Tuivailala, Ben Motter and Joe Lopez will get long looks this spring as well.

Fred Thompson could end up authoring one of the more compelling d-line stories this spring. A freshman who enrolled at Oregon State in January, he has loads of potential. The question is if he's ready to contribute right away.

But the bottom line is that d-tackle is thin heading into spring ball. Beaver Nation is hoping it looks a bit more flush by the time spring drills end.

DEFENSIVE END this spring will see lot more bodies at the ready than on the inside, but there are just as many unknowns.

Dominic Glover started eight games last year, playing in all 12, and logged 43 tackles and 7.5 sacks. He'll head into spring at the top of the depth chart at one of the defensive end spots. Taylor Henry appeared poised for a breakout season after the 2010 spring session but back injuries slowed him down considerably. If he's healthy this spring, he could rekindle some of that excitement Beaver fans felt last year in watching him dominate the ‘10 spring game.

Similar to Thompson over at d-tackle, there's a very promising player who could end up being the talk of the d-ends this spring – redshirt freshman Scott Crichton.

On the day he signed his LOI to Oregon State, BF.C pegged him as one to watch, writing that he had arguably the most potential star power in OSU's 2010 class over the course of his college career. There's a reason why the day after he verbally committed to the Beavs, Oregon came running at him with a green and gold offer.

He'll have competition. Rusty Fernando and Blake Harrah are two JC transfers who enrolled in January. How ready are they to compete in the Pac-12? Spring will begin to answer that question. And don't forget about sophomore John Braun, (6-5, 265 pounds).

There's a lot of potential at d-end, a lot of promising players. But they still have to prove it out on the field, as does the entire d-line. That all begins in earnest a little more than three weeks from now, on March 28, the first day of spring drills at Oregon State.

Former OSU walk-on Zane Norris, who some thought might move to defensive end from linebacker this spring, has left the program to try his hand at Portland State.

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