OSU SPRING PREVIEW: The Defensive Line

CORVALLIS – Hefty competition for one or both of the coveted starting DT spots, yes? A wide open battle for one DE spot opposite a season starter, you say? So who has the juice to grab assistant Joe Seumalo's attention and topple the other contenders? Well, you have to start with a guy who turned heads in practice last year but never played.

Jalen Grimble (6-2, 297) will begin his first year of eligibility in 2014 after transferring, and even though the junior has been practicing with the team since last August, now that he's good to go, that really shakes up the defensive tackle spot.

One would think the incumbents at DT headed in are seniors-to-be Siale Hautau (6-1, 340) and Edwin Delva (6-3, 300). The question is did Hautau and Delva perform well enough in 2013 to indicate they'll still be on top of the depth chart once spring concludes?

With an explosive athlete gunning for their jobs, will the duo go for the gusto or make way for the next man up?

It's hard to say just yet, but with spring ball a stone's throw away my gut says Grimble and others have got a good shot at earning starting reps and shake things up by the end of the spring.

And it's not just Grimble making blips on the radar.

Kyle Peko (DT, 6-2, 295) will (finally) be in Corvallis and suited up for spring ball, Mike Riley says. But he spent the past year getting qualified and there's the question of rust, not to mention acclimating to the next level.

Noke Tago, who will be a third-year sophomore, figures to make a bid for a first team job as well.

Tago (6-1, 306) is a two year veteran of the OSU scout team and offers a mix of size and speed that was in short supply this past season. At the very least, he will be jostling for playing time, as will juniors-to-be Brandon Bennett and Ali'i Robins for rotation time.

Meanwhile, Dylan Wynn spearheads the defensive line from the DE position in what will be his final spring as a Beaver.

The 6-2, 260 bulldog is likely to be the unquestioned leader of the D-line, and his spot is securely fastened. In some sense, we're going to really find out about Wynn now. He's often been in the shadow of fellow edge-buster Scott Crichton and that's no longer going to be the case this season.

Is a big year from Wynn in the offing?

And at that other end, there's a competition brewing…

Crichton's departure left a massive gap to fill at either the left or right end of the D-line – whichever end is not stacked with Wynn.

Look for juniors Jaswha James, Akeem Gonzales and Lavonte Barnett to be duking it out for time with the first team this spring.

James and Barnett boast the most experience to date – but can Gonzales use his advanced burst off the line to jump from scout team fixture to bona fide competitor for starting time this spring?

It's going to be fun to find out.

  • The addition of former wideout Obum Gwacham to the defensive end corps is the dark horse story of the spring. He is a talented athlete but no one knows quite what we're going to see there from him.

  • D-lineman Luke Hollingsworth (6-2, 260, transferring from Snow College) will take summer classes at OSU in order to graduate. He is expected to be eligible this fall.

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