SPRING: Position battles among the DBs

CORVALLIS – Spring practices at Oregon State get back underway later today and when they do, the defensive secondary will continue to face this question…

Feast or famine?

After all, corner Brandon Hardin, (and the secondary in general), drew a lot of criticism from fans for giving up a lot of big plays in 2010.

And the Beavers will miss the big play ability of graduating CB James Dockery and S Suaesi Tuimaunei.

But the Beavers can do a good job this year through the experience of Hardin, a senior, and rising junior CB Jordan Poyer, sticking to the opposing top two receivers this year.

Hardin had more good plays than some remember, too – he racked up 63 total tackles, along with three forced fumbles, a sack and one blocked kick. And he's had all offseason to see the tape and learn. The take here is Hardin will learn better when to pick his spots as seniors often do, and that he will have a very solid senior season.

Poyer, now focusing on spring ball full time and no longer playing with the OSU baseball team, burst onto the scene last season. He made a surprisingly big impact for the Beavs and of his two interceptions, one was returned 65 yards for a TD in a win against USC. Look for Poyer to only build on last season's success and have an even bigger impact with more playing time.

Backing up Hardin and Poyer at corner are sophomore Sean Martin and sophomore Rashaad Reynolds. Both played a little last season and need to make the most of the spring to take that next step. One player to look for could be redshirt junior Ryan Handford from New Brunswick, NJ. Handford is a natural athlete. Another to keep an eye on is junior Keynan Parker. Parker is one of the fastest players on the team and had a great spring camp last year.

At the safety position Oregon State returns senior Lance Mitchell, who is on the preseason list of players to look for in the 2012 NFL draft.

Mitchell had a very good season in 2010 as he recorded 74 tackles, two INT and had two games where he recorded double digit tackles (@TCU, 18, and against Oregon 10). He should be a huge help for the OSU secondary.

Joining Mitchell in the starting defensive backfield is a question mark this spring, though the take here is it will probably be junior Josh LaGrone.

LaGrone saw some minutes last season playing in three games and getting three tackles. A player to watch this spring will be junior Anthony Watkins. I think Watkins can be the next "Lance Mitchell" once Mitchell leaves and I believe this year will be a bit of a coming out party for Watkins. Sophomore Zeke Sanders is also in the mix.

But the pick of many this spring to make a spirited run at playing time at safety -- Ryan Murphy.

Murphy, who was one of OSU's big gets in the Class of 2009, redshirted last year and turned heads in practice over the course of last year.

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