BF.C Fall Camp Preview: Defensive Tackle

CORVALLIS–BF.C turns the microscope on perhaps the most 2013 crucial issue of all -- many questions remain at the defensive tackle spot. Who's in the running for playing time, who isn't? Will two JUCO transfers get the nod, or will a player who has been around the block make a stand? Two positions to fill -- what do the orange and black have to work with in '13? Because no matter how you slice it…

Oregon State is in a tight spot at defensive tackle.

Neither of the newly arrived JUCO recruits popped in the spring, and questions remain as to whether or not one of them will be 100 percent come Aug. 5.

Are the Beavers in dire straits with those two and a highly touted JUCO recruit en route?

They could be…

My sentiments regarding the current state of the DT's would be different had Siale Hautau not broken his hand just one week into spring ball. Had he remained healthy during that oh-so-crucial period in his development, his expedited transition into the starting DT role may not have seemed so…impromptu.

How much of an impact he'll have will linger over the first few days of fall camp turf pounding.

As far as Edwin Delva is concerned, Joe Seumalo is dealing with a bright spot in need of some vigorous polishing. He looked good this spring, but not great. Quick, but not fast. A decent athlete, right now.

Yet Delva could have had a strong summer with a superior August. He could prove to everybody that he deserves the designation of starting DT. Ultimately, he enters camp on the same chopping block as guys who haven't seen a lick of playing time. Will he take on the fall session with a head full of steam and become a defensive leader?

Shedding Light On...
The wildcard here is John Braun. Riley told the Portland Tribune last night that Braun and Rosa will open fall camp as the starting DTs.

The senior enters the season with 28 games played but much of that has been on special teams. He has one tackle and one fumble recovery over his career. He spent some of the spring on the outside but figures to get a long look on the interior in fall camp.

Brandon Bennett saw two games and three tackles worth of playing time last season. That experience, however limited, gives him a slight advantage over other candidates for the vacant interior slot should Hautau or Kyle Peko not perform at a level that sells them as starters after just four weeks of practice.

Bennett was also the primary filler in the middle after Hautau broke his hand. He owned the lion's share of reps despite dividing them with Mana Rosa.

Peko is a big boy, weighing in at 295 pounds on his 6-2 frame. He should make a concerted effort for playing time with the interior guys, but variations of his role may not be as common as they could with guys like Rosa and Dylan Wynn.

The same can be said for Delva and Hautau, whose larger frames won't lend themselves to alternating from a run stuffer to outside pass rusher all that often.

And what can we realistically expect of Peko?

It's especially rare that a defensive tackle comes in and puts on a four week display that merits a spot on the 1's. A DT is traditionally groomed for a year or two within a system before legitimate consideration is given to his role.

Delva and Hautau have had their struggles, however small. What is to say Peko won't have his?

The thing is, Oregon State might not have a choice.

The simple fact OSU listed two JC d-tackles atop their depth chart pre-spring, when they had yet to play a single down of Pac-12 football, is both telling and downright scary.

Final thoughts
At this point, in-game experience is a feather in the cap for Bennett that he shares with a select few in consideration for time in the D-line rotation.

Rosa, a senior, and Bennett's fellow sophomore Ali'i Robins both have game experience – Rosa is the heavyweight with 18 games total, a couple scattered tackles and a sack.

Experience may factor into his potential for receiving some looks, but from my post Bennett managed to outplay Rosa in the spring.

I expect some combination of Peko, Hautau and Delva will ultimately claim the coveted starting spots, at which point it will be a battle for rotation time between Bennett and Rosa, as well as Braun.

To Rosa's credit, he is a versatile athlete who can move easily from DE to DT if necessary. Is he a candidate for Rudolph Fifita's old role as super-sub?

Or will that be the job of the guy receiving the short end of the anticipated Peko-Hautau-Delva mix?

Finally, there is current redshirt freshman Noke Tago (6-1, 302) who figures to take a stab at some playing time beyond the 2's.

Tago has the build to be effective in stuffing the lanes and he's had spurts of above average play, but nothing significant enough to catapult him up the line of upperclassmen vying for snaps in the fall.

There is no nice little bow to put on this situation – it's a tad messy.

And it will be downright fascinating to see how it all plays out starting on Monday.

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