CORVALLIS – There likely won't be any guessing games this spring at the safety position - Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman have the starting jobs pretty well in hand. But what about behind them? Six underclassmen all told want a crack at reps this season and that means, spring might be more interesting at the safety spot than it's been in a long time for the Beavs.

Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman, seniors-to-be both, are athletically talented, intelligent safeties who know the ins and outs of their position quite thoroughly after several years in the Oregon State program.

The two of them have their routines down and close to four years of film study under their belts – they should be in full stride this spring while others are still trying to find their footing.

And all things being equal, Oregon State could feature one of the best safety tandems in the Pac-12. Murphy has long been seen as a potential NFL prospect and Zimmerman, from the chair of BF.C, is certainly a darkhorse candidate there as well -- albeit probably not as well known in draft circles outside Corvallis, (although we think that will change this season.)

But in looking just at 2014, there's also significantly less padding in the ranks behind Murphy and Zimmerman now that Steven Christian has graduated and Cyril Noland has made the full transition to linebacker.

Kendall Hill (knee) felt the sting of the injury bug last season, and didn't see any game action in 2013 and missed out on valuable reps in the process, (nor did walk on A.J. Hedgecock with an arm injury). If they participate in spring ball, they figure to have to cope with a long learning curve.

That leaves four players who will fight for two open spots behind the veterans – third-year sophomore Zack Robinson, redshirt-freshmen Brandon Arnold and Justin Strong and junior walk on Micah Audiss.

Audiss and Robinson have experience as special teamers and backups already, so part of me expects to see their role continue in that same fashion – delivering powerful hits on kick returns and stepping in as needed for Murphy/Zimmerman.

But the part of me that has watched spring and fall camps for close to two years reminds me that injuries occur unexpectedly, or heal quicker than thought normal. It reminds me that these guys have school and personal lives… on top of a rigorous training/practice schedule. In short, in reminds me to expect the unexpected. And Arnold and Strong are no pushovers.

Indeed, they are rising after a season in the fold. They seemed to traverse their learning curves quickly in 2013, and were soon making tough plays in practice and keeping up with the upperclassmen.

Arnold, who was in and out of the second team practice rotation last fall, might be looking to make a more permanent stake at the position behind Zimmerman or Murphy, and Strong may hop on the train with him.

Which means Robinson and Audiss can't get too comfortable with the game experience and handfuls of tackles under their belts.

There may not be a tight battle for starting time heading into 2014, but there could be a storm brewing in the two deeps.

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