Sideline chat with OSU's Mark Banker on Cal

CORVALLIS – There are certainly some offensive similarities between this week's opponent, California, and last week's, WSU. But there are some decided differences too. BF.C talks with Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker about some of that and more in this wide-ranging interview.

"It's good that we have teams with similarities back-to-back, because you kind of stay in the same mode," Mark Banker said. "Although (Cal's) running game is vastly different from what we just saw."

How so?

"Well Washington State was more of an inside zone team," Banker said. "Where they've (Cal) got a little bit more of a power game. They use pulling guards and things like that, so getting upfield on the edges - their offense kind of blends into that a little bit more rather than inside penetration and disruption of the zone play -- you get outside penetration. Now they are going to kick that last man on the line of scrimmage out."

How does that change things for the Beavs?

"What we want to do is we want those things ‘spilled'," Banker said. "We've got to be on our toes."

SOMETHING THAT COULD help that cause, other than putting together four quarters worth of astute defense, could be the nickel and dime variations OSU employed against WSU to great success. Yet there is another element involved here.

"They carry what we call 21-, 12- and 20 person, where they use two backs and two tight ends sometimes – not much, but there is enough in there that you have got (be prepared to) cover that stuff." Banker said.

So in a way, Cal can at times look quite different formation-wise from WSU, a team that uses no tight ends. And if this one comes down to blitzes, that's harder to achieve with the nickel and dime sets with, potentially, only five or six guys total in the box.

The good news for Beaver fans is that they've been working through these things since fall camp. So how does Banker feel about the success of the dime packages thus far?

"It's been okay -- the tough part of it sometimes is maybe you take off a very productive player that's up front," Banker said. "Sometimes you don't add the fourth rusher, and it takes a way a little bit from direct pressure, with four guys versus their five and things like that. We just have to have a balance, be able to mix that up."

How have the players adjusted to all the mixing, matching and adjusting, both in practice and games?

"The players have done a good job bouncing in and out of the different packages that we have, and that's huge," Banker said. "One thing that we've talked about is that (Cal) presents a challenge in the fact that they try and go fast. To the point where they don't even huddle after a play, they go right to the line of scrimmage and either run the same exact play or show you the run fake and throw a play action pass off of it."

So Cal can be more multi-dimensional than WSU showed the Beavs. So when you talk about the keys to preparing for a team that may run, throw and develop a convincing play-action throughout the game…

"It's two fold," said Banker. "Number one, you've got to be ready for the up-tempo, which they're going to be all the time anyhow. Then the change of personnel groups presents a challenge."

BANKER WENT ON to note the athleticism of weakside linebacker D.J. Alexander and budding strongside linebacker Jabral Johnson have been key to the success of the OSU's nickel and dime schemes.

Still, the clutch mentality of the OSU secondary can't be discounted, even though one also has to include the uneven play that's surrounded it.

At the end of the day, however, takeaways can cover a great many sins. And the Beaver secondary has posted 12 interceptions thus far, more than anyone else in the nation. Will they continue to roll against Cal? All Banker did was smile.

"We'll take them anytime," Banker said. "Any turnover you get, that's just one more possession for your offense."

And we all know what the Beaver offense is capable of when aided by slick play by their defense – just ask WSU's Mike Leach and Connor Halliday.

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