BF.C COMMENTARY: Ask the Insiders

THE 2012 CAMPAIGN featured a stellar run defense stacked on the shoulders of two good defensive tackles in Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai. But now they're gone, lost to graduation. The Beavers have gone HEAVY with junior college d-line recruits. Does this reflect a lack of prospects that are game ready? Insiders Chad Luther and Drew Wilson-McGrath address that and more....

Wilson-McGrath: Yes and no. While it does reflect the fact that the Beavs don't really have two guys ready to dominate at the level Seumalo and Masaniai did right out the gate, I feel like the recent influx of the JC DT talent is mostly just smart preparation for the future and less a cause for concern.

OSU lost four line-guys to graduation this year (Rudolf Fifita, Rusty Fernando, Seumalo and Masaniai), and will lose a combined six more within the next two years (Joe Lopez, Blake Harrah, Dylan Wynn, Scott Crichton, Devon Kell and John Braun)

Not to mention that the once sure bets of Harrah (former RS JR) and Desmond Collins (previously RS FR) were injury ridden for the majority of 2012 - it will take some time to work those guys back into active D-line shape.

Sure, a solid dose of young and healthy defensive lineman may seem to indicate the current lack of a sure fire duo to fill in for Seumalo/Masaniai right now - but in two years, OSU will probably have the best rush defense in the Pac-12.

Luther: One of the exciting prospects from the 2012 class a year ago was Noke Tago, a 6-1, 290 pound prospect out of Pago Pago who redshirted in 2013. What I've heard is "raw but physical". What were your impressions of Tago and his progression in 2012?

Wilson-McGrath: Tago is a big boy with a nasty streak, and Riley likes him – that accounts for something. The thing I‘ve noticed about Tago that falls right in line with the "raw" label – he needs to find a home.

I don't know if he can cut it at nose, and I'm not convinced that he has the speed to compensate for what was lost with Seumalo's departure. But I am convinced that he will have an impact in 2013.

I feel like the relative uncertainty OSU is facing at DT currently will be the driving force behind Mark Banker/Joe Seumalo running some defensive line schemes that actively play to the strengths of individual players, as opposed to the strengths of the whole DL unit combined.

Where I see Tago making the most headway as a SO is in a super-sub sort of roll for the interior, similar to how Fifita operated as a DE last season.

Luther: Who do you like from the current roster – if anyone – to push for a starter's role at DT in 2013?

Wilson-McGrath: You have Lopez, who will be a junior, and he's a tenacious, stocky brick-house type of player that has the ability to plug up the running lanes with size (6-0 273), but also stuff runs before they start with some uncanny speed and impressive technique.

I can't confidently say Lopez is "game ready" yet, he has some grit and determination under that helmet, and that I do know. I imagine if he were put to the test, he would put up some unexpected numbers.

His smaller stature brings an element of elusiveness to the table that was highly sought after a few years ago in guys like Casey Hampton (Pittsburg Steelers NT). Bear in mind that he will be under the tutelage of Joe Seumalo, arguably one of the greatest assets Riley has on his staff.

And even with Lopez standing a chance to start, the battle to become slated as the No.1 and No.2 DT's in 2013 is sure to be a shootout. My thought is that through this open competition, two or three names will emerge. My guesses are Lopez, Tago/ Harrah* and Collins.*

*Collins/Harrah are questionable IMO. The pair spent a lot of time not playing football, and I am unsure of whether they can bounce back into game shape by the time final decisions for 2013 start getting handed down.

In the event that both Collins and Harrah are null and void – you may see one of the JC DT's get a shot at the starting gig.

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