COMMENTARY: What's really wrong with Beav D

CORVALLIS – In three games, Oregon State has allowed 1,403 yards and 13 touchdowns. Is it Mark Banker's scheme that's the culprit? Are the players not as talented as we all thought? Hey, maybe the new uniforms are not as aerodynamic as they should be or flashy enough? OSU's defense these first three games has been…well…generous. But why? BF.C's Drew Wilson-McGrath thinks he may have the answer.

There is a leadership void amongst the Oregon State stop corps.

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For all the talk of scheme, coaching, preparedness, poor tackling and improper angles, it's something else – leadership – that is most missing.

Mike Riley and Mark Banker mentioned it during spring ball and fall camp – the Beavers needed to find team leaders if they wanted to be successful. And it was finally evident against Utah.

FROM MY SEAT in the press box of Rice Eccles Stadium, I noticed linebacker D.J. Alexander was incredibly hyped up, especially during the first quarter, in his first action of the year. The junior didn't play the whole game, he posted four tackles and just one of those was obtained in the first two quarters. But Alexander's first half performance was exemplary for reasons other than his stat line.

Alexander became OSU's emotional leader at the start. He took over where Scott Crichton, Dylan Wynn, Rashaad Reynolds and Ryan Murphy have not and championed a heretofore lethargic and sluggish Beaver defense – for a half anyway.

Ah, but how did he do it? Was it sorcery? Voodoo?

No. Alexander got rowdy and dialed in from the get-go. He got in the face of opposing athletes. He was moving his hands around, yelling at his teammates and jumping up and down in joy after every good play on defense was made – and when he wasn't the one making the play.

It was raw and awesome. It was aggression and emotion and exhilaration all packaged into a ball of energy - a football player losing himself to the game.

I HATE TO say it, but there are some lessons to be learned from Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Be loud and represent your team with fire in your eyes. Oregon State isn't doing that on defense and it could make all the difference in the world moving forward this season.

I'm in the camp that rejects the notion that OSU's defensive struggles are primarily due to coaching miscues against a zone-read scheme, underdeveloped talent, etc. The recent slide from a solid, respected defense to one that is being sliced and diced is less about talent and coaching than it is about accountability and leadership within the ranks.

It is here that my mind drifts back to 2012 Beaver All-America cornerback Jordan Poyer. Forget about his stats and awards for a moment, what he brought to the Beavs in terms of leadership was of just as much if not more value. Poyer was the guy the other 10 defenders rallied around. He was the one who called out his teammates when they missed an assignment or tackle, and the one who exhorted them on when they succeeded.

Poyer had attitude, and attitude reflects leadership. From this chair, no one has stepped up to fill that void on the 2013 Beavs.

I'M NOT SAYING THE PRIDE has been completely lost – but I am saying that it has gone missing for long stretches. OSU found it in the first quarter at Salt Lake City. It was still hanging around in the second quarter. But then the second half happened, and it was oh-so-painfully clear that defensive pride had caught an early flight out of town.

Wynn was furious after the game. He said that no defense should give up 45 points and be happy about it and he held himself accountable. Wynn had six tackles, two which went for a loss, but despite three picks the Beavs had again failed to shut a team down.

However, I would argue that he needs to be furious with his cohorts during the game as needed, and congratulatory when called for, if he really wants to effect change on this defense.

THINGS AREN'T GOING to change on defense until Beaver players answer to a peer -- rather than only to the coaches. Fans and media aren't going to be able to effect change either. It has to come from within. It has to come from the players.

And no, I don't have a particular player or players in mind to assume the role, that's not my job. Sure, Alexander was ‘that guy' against Utah, but the glow faded as the game went on, perhaps in part by the fact he's not yet fully back in fighting trim from injury. It could be Wynn if he truly is fed up with the way things are going. It could be Reynolds, Crichton or Murphy. The point is that it needs to be someone.

The change that must come has little to do with a shift in personnel or Banker's head being served up to the naysayers on a platter. It's the mentality of the defense - as a unit – that needs to change most. Someone needs to stand up and be the face of the Beaver D. Someone needs to be a leader, someone that the players will follow.

TWO WEEKS AGO a good number of Beaver Nation harped on WR Brandin Cooks for coming out in the media and saying Oregon State was going to crush Hawaii. But it was a gutsy statement showing someone had confidence in the orange and black after a humiliating loss to EWU. He didn't generalize, nor did he try to play it safe by giving familiar, throwaway quotes to the media. He got in front of a mic and a camera and basically said bring it on.

OSU didn't crush Hawaii, but it was clear evidence that Cooks knows what the 2013 Beavs are capable of and that he wasn't afraid to articulate it publicly. Beaver fans should be hoping that he's also expressing it in private and during the game -- and that someone else on the other side of the ball has been taking notes.

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