Editor’s Note: For each game this season, we are identifying a player and position group that could be the X-factor for the Beavers in that game. We claim no responsibility for jinxing any players.
Devin Chappell (Senior) — Safety
Vitals: 6-2, 203 pounds; from Springfield, Oregon where he attended Thurston High School; transferred from Western Oregon where he played for two seasons as a cornerback.
2016 Stats: Started all 10 games; ranks second on the team in tackles (68) and tackles for loss (5), leads team with six forced fumbles.
Why he’s the X-Factor: Believe it or not, but Arizona is second in the Pac-12 in rushing offense at 214 yards per game. And a large part of that is due to quarterback Brandon Dawkins who has rushed for 673 yards and eight touchdowns. So, the Beavers will need to account for him, or be able to step up and hit him if he gets loose, and Devin Chappell could be that guy.
Not only has Chappell being laying the wood on opponents this season, but he’s caused a team-high six fumbles. If he can hit Dawkins a few times early on, it could deter the speedy quarterback from running as much, and we all know how scary a running QB can be! Along with that, there’s a good chance Chappell could jar the ball loose out of an on-the-run Dawkins hand/arm.
Huge hits aside, Chappell has quietly turned in a strong season for the Beavers, and his skill set seems to match up well against Arizona. So, he should play a big role for Oregon State this weekend. He’s strong, smart, and finishes plays. He could help the defense seal off screens and lanes for Dawkins to run through. Don’t be surprised if Chappell ends up with a line of 8+ tackles, another forced fumble, and an interception.
Position Group: Linebackers
Why they’re the X-Factor: There are two reasons the linebackers are in the spotlight this weekend. First off, this is a position group that’s beset by injuries. On the heels of news that Bright Ugwoegbu is out of the season, Joah Robinett and Adam Soesman won’t play against Arizona. So, the depth at this position is thin, and it will be interesting to see what adjustments are made in terms of rotation.
But most importantly, the linebackers will be counted on to help slow down the Wildcats’ rushing game. If they can help force Arizona to rely on the passing game, it would be a huge win for the Beavers, as they have been much stronger against the pass than the run this season. It also would be nice to see them contain running backs on the outside effectively in this game.
Caleb Saulo will be solid as usual and rack up tackles, but keep an eye on Andrzej Hughes-Murray. He’s been playing very well since he was un-redshirted and is very athletic and physical. He could be exactly what the Beavers need against the rush. Also, it will be interesting to see what Manase Hungalu does for an encore after his standout performance against UCLA (two fumble recoveries, one for a touchdown, and an interception in the endzone).
Blitzers, who are your X-Factors for the Arizona game?