The 2016 season was mixed bag for the Oregon State defense. On one hand, slowly but surely, it appeared to improve throughout the season, especially in the backfield. However, OSU struggled all year against the run and getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, so the defensive line must make strides this year if the Beavers hope to continue to improve on defense.
The unit has experience, will have an infusion of promising young talent, and a big JUCO addition in the fall. So, this spring it will be interesting to see how the returning linemen come out and how much improvement they make.
- Sumner Houston (junior). Has moved to offensive side of the ball and is projected to start at center.
- Noke Tago (graduated): Oft-injured DT played in eight games in 2016, recording eight tackles, 2.5 for loss.
- Baker Pritchard (senior): Played in 10 games, recording 23 tackles, 1.5 for loss.
- Kalani Vakameilalo (junior): Played in every game, recording 17 tackles, 2 for loss, and two sacks.
- Elu Aydon (RS-sophomore): Played in every game, recording 21 tackles, 2 for loss, and 1 sack.
- Phillip Napoleon (senior): Played in 11 games, recording 23 tackles and two quarterback hurries.
- Paisa Savea (senior): Played in every game, recording 19 tackles, including 1 for loss.
- Lamone Williams (senior): Missed all of last season due to injury. Has good size at 6-3, 279 pounds.
- Kenny Turnier (RS-freshman). Recruited as a defensive end and moved to tight end in fall camp last year, he got hurt and had to have knee surgery, forcing him to miss the entire season. Has moved back to defensive end and could be an impact player for OSU.
- Isaac Garcia (Freshman). One of OSU’s top 2016 signings, he was ineligible last season. A Scout 3-star, he could provide an immediate boost on the edge for the Beavers. He will not be eligible to practice this spring.
3 Things to Watch
1. With Isaac Garcia in school, but working on eligibility requirements, he will be unable to participate in spring camp. This allows Phillip Napoleon and Baker Pritchard ample reps to show how they have improved since last season. Although there is plenty of youth on the defensive line, the two seniors will be called upon for their leadership this spring.
2. A newcomer (relatively speaking) to keep an eye on is Turnier. Due to a lack of depth at tight end last season, Turnier was moved to TE from defensive end during fall camp, but suffered a season-ending injury before he played a snap. He is a tremendous athlete and was considered one of the steals of the 2016 recruiting class. If he’s healthy and ready to go, he should make this spring more fun to watch.
3. Also, what kind of impact can Williams, who missed all of last season too, due to injury, make? Same with Thor Katoa, who redshirted last season. Both have great size for defensive ends and could play inside. At the very least, will they help increase the competition this spring on the defensive line.
Honestly, outside of Evans, who won’t arrive until fall camp, it’s hard to pencil in the starters on the OSU defensive line. However, in many ways this unit has nowhere to go but up after last season — and it really must be better against the run, at the very least. So, spring ball will be important for this group in terms of improvement and hitting the ground running during fall camp. While many fans are concerned about the quarterback and offensive line, it’s almost as important that the Beavers are stronger up front on defense in 2017, or a promising defensive may hit more bumps than it would like.