SPRING: A closer look at the d-line

CORVALLIS -- With the Beavers now into spring practices, many fans wonder which positions on defense they'll be able to rely on in 2011. With key losses on the d-line, linebacker and in the secondary, it's hard to know who will step up to fill in the missing pieces. We take a closer look and offer a full rundown starting with the defensive line.

Defensively, my take is the Beavers will need players to step up the most on the d-line. The trenches is where it all starts, especially for a Mike Riley/Mark Banker defense, and with the departure of All-American Stephen Paea and Brennan Olander, the line has serious holes to fill.

Although it would be unfair and nearly impossible to ask anyone to do the kind of things Paea did during his career, I believe line coach Joe Seumalo and defensive coordinator Mark Banker have good enough talent to fill the void -- although maybe not until fall camp. It starts with the man who took over for Olander last season (when he suffered a separated shoulder), senior Kevin Frahm.

Frahm had 33 total tackles last season and in 12 games had 3 sacks. Not bad for a guy who switched from the end to DT position last year. Playing alongside Frahm was expected to be big Castro Masaniai this spring but he's out, continuing to rehab his shoulder, hence the reason why it might not be until the fall before OSU shows they're capable up front.

For those of you who don't know Masaniai, he wears No. 98 and has Troy Polamalu hair and this junior could have a breakout-type season. He played in 7 games and logged four tackles last season -- not mind blowing numbers, but his supplied heavy pressure.

Backing Masaniai up will most likely be local Philomath native Ben Motter. Motter brings senior leadership, but unless he makes a big leap forward, it's hard to see him earning significant playing time.

WATCH FOR freshman Fred Thompson who is all of 6-4, 318 pounds. A lot is expected of him, and those expectations might be unrealistic of a player who enrolled in January and gets that extra early start. From Richmond, Calif., he could be a monster – it all depends on how soon he's ready. Another one to keep an eye on is Mana Tuivailala, a RS freshman last season. Tuivailala checks in at 6-3, 279 so he could be a little light, but don't count him out in terms of impact.

At the DE position, the Beavers are looking to replace hard working Gabe Miller, a valuable cog for the Beavers the past two seasons. Banker will be looking for somebody to step up in a big way for him and that somebody could be assistant coach Joe Seumalo's son Andrew Seumalo, a junior.

Seumalo saw some playing time last season but didn't have much of an impact. Look for him to come back strong this season as players usually start to emerge on the OSU defense in their junior year.

Listed on the depth chart as Seumalo's back up is Ben Motter, but I believe Mana Rosa will take the No. 2 position (or better) by the time fall camp rolls around. Call it a hunch but I saw Rosa play last season in practice -- and this kid can be really good this season.

At the RE spot, the Beavers have senior Dominic Glover returning as the starter. Glover was initially the backup when last season began but took over for then-sophomore Taylor Henry (back).

Glover finished last season with 43 total tackles, stepping up his play specifically after getting the starting nod. In the mix will be Henry and junior college transfer Blake Harrah.

Henry received a lot of praise from the coaches during spring drills and fall camp but seemed to fall out of interest and suffer through injuries, with the latter perhaps causing the former. Bottom line, last year became a season to forget for him.

Harrah, the son of Dennis Harrah, longtime St. Louis Ram and six time Pro Bowler, Harrah transferred from Saddleback CC where he helped lead them to an 8-3 record. The expectation is for Harrah to come in and even give Glover a run for his money.

Adding to the list of transfers for the Beavers this offseason was 6-3, 225 pound Rusty Fernando. The d-end transferred from Glendale Community College in Arizona and had 17 sacks during his career. People should be excited by his addition -- I believe he'll make a very solid contribution up front.

Overall, I believe the Beavers will miss Paea and Olander, but I think Banker and Seumalo will do a great job restocking, and I look for the Beavers to have a good season up front. Will they struggle? A little bit, but this group I believe is geared to stop the run better, an obvious problem for the Beavs last year.

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