Not many observers and fans were worried about one-half of the OSU defensive backfield going into this season. Not with Treston Decoud and Devin Chappell returning. And sure enough, the two seniors didn’t disappoint. Decoud was one of the best corners in the Pac-12, often shutting down elite receivers. Case in point, he held Cal’s Chad Hansen, the conference’s leading WR to 4 catches for 16 yards! Meanwhile, Chappell capped off going from walk-on to stud in style, finishing as the Beavers third-leading tackler (77) and a team-high six forced fumbles.
But, how about Xavier Crawford? Locked in a tight battle with Dwayne Williams in spring and fall, he emerged to start all 12 games at the other cornerback spot. And he came up big for the Beavers. The redshirt sophomore recorded 70 tackles (fourth most on the team), 11 pass break ups, and 10 passes defended, en route to receiving an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention nod! He arguably was OSU’s top breakout player this season, and was so very impressive in coverage.
Sandwiched between Crawford and Decoud on the Beavers’ top tacklers list was Brandon Arnold, who finished with 68 tackles. He also had OSU’s longest interception return at 43 yards. Also, shout to Kendall Hill. Despite several big injuries and position changes during his career, the junior has hung in there, and this season, he was huge in a reserve role for the Beavers.
I’ve constantly heaped praise on safeties coach Derrick Odum and corners coach Cory Hall this year, and for good reason, the secondary was the Beavers’ strong and most consistent unit. And you can’t help but be impressed by the growth of players such as Crawford and Hill.
It’s a tall task having to replace Decoud and Chappell, especially when you consider the Beavers are pretty young in the secondary. Not surprisingly, the Beavers have made corners and safeties a priority this recruiting cycle. OSU has commitments from several promising prep corners, including 3-stars Jeffrey Manning and Kaleb Hayes, and are in on several good safeties such as Charles Watson and Trajon Cotton.
Other than a little reloading, it should be full steam ahead for the secondary next season. Crawford will only get better. Maybe Williams will emerge opposite of him, like Crawford did this season. If the Beavers can lock down another safety, there’s no reason to think this unit won’t flourish again next season.
Final grade: A
Outside of the Colorado game, the OSU secondary was outstanding this season. The proof is in the numbers, too. Despite not having the luxury of a consistent pass rush, the Beavers ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in pass defense, allowing 211 yards per game. Making their performance even more impressive was the fact that they only five interceptions. That shows you how well they did in coverage!