|The roster (8)||Losses (0)|
|Current Verbals (1)||Need (1)|
The outlook -
There are brighter days ahead, just ask the Oregon Ducks. In 2004 the UO corners were too short, too slow, and did not have enough experience. A year later the secondary turned out to be one of the Duck's strengths as Aaron Gibson led the Pac-10 in interceptions while helping the unit rank second in the conference in pass defense. One can only hope that the Oregon State corners have a similar turn around.
Keenan Lewis got better as the year wore on positioning his body better while tracking the ball more effectively. As you undoubtedly know, Lewis has the physical tools to succeed and now has the confidence to be another solid corner. The coaches feel confident about leaving him one on one next year.
The other corner spot is up for grabs as junior college transfer Coye Francies and current Beavers' Brandon Hughes, Aaron Miller, Gerard Lawson, and Kellen Marshall will all fight for the starting spot.
Hughes started seven games last year replacing Gerard Lawson in the lineup. Hughes also improved game by game, but had trouble getting his body in the right position to make a play. Oftentimes he stayed with receivers, but looked over the wrong shoulder or swatted with the wrong hand missing the ball and giving up a big play. Hughes does have good recovery speed though and a superb work ethic.
Miller and Lawson saw spot duty behind Lewis and Hughes with neither showing too much promise. Lawson is the most physical of the bunch but just doesn't have the height or timing to stick with the bigger players. His aggressiveness also leaves him exposed at times as he doesn't have great recovery speed. Mike Riley noted that Marshall was playing his best ball since at OSU and if his improvement continues he could grab a backup spot or possibly a starting role.
Rickey Herod, Patrick Henderson and Tim Clark will all contribute on special teams, but look for Patrick Henderson to make some noise. He is one of the better athletes in the unit and the coaches could move him around to get him on the field.
One major area of concern is the lack of physical play at the line of scrimmage. Not one player on the roster is proficient at jamming, a technique that Brandon Browner, Aric Williams and Dennis Weathersby all excelled at. But the Beavers played more zone then usual resulting in the need not to jam at the line.
Spring ball -
There is deceptively a lot of experience at this spot on the roster despite overall being young. Getting the hips pointed in the right direction, jamming at the LOS, and tracking the ball in the air are three techniques that will be mutinously worked on.
Nigel Burton is an excellent coach whom the player respect and listen to. Look for Lewis to improve dramatically as the coaches try to find the starter for the other side of the field. At least four players will be getting a ton of reps so expect a lot of shuffling around. Don't expect this battle to be settled until the middle of fall camp in August.
Keep your eye on - The other cornerback spot. Who's it gonna be? An underclassman, a fifth year senior or a junior college transfer? This is one of the most intriguing and important battles to watch this April...and August.
|The roster (7)||Losses (0)|
|Current Verbals (2)||Need (0)|
The outlook -
At first glance this looks like a solid part of the team with both starters returning in Sabby Piscitelli and Al Afalava. But a big problem lies with the two deeps where inexperience and a lack of talent reigns.
Piscitelli had a rough year in his first leadership role in the defensive backfield. Perhaps he was trying to overcompensate with the new corners, but he got just plain burnt numerous times. He tends to bite on the ball fakes leaving him and the secondary vulnerable to the big play. With another year under his belt and confidence in his teammates Piscitelli could have a breakout year.
Afalava proved to be a boost in the arm with his speed and aggressive play. With Herron in the backfield the Beavers rarely blitzed the free safety, but with Afalava in the lineup it gave the coaches the option to send him or at least feign sending him giving the opponents one more thing to worry about. Both Piscitelli and Afalava like to deliver the big hit, which is a valuable psychological and physical weapon.
Daniel Drayton is next in line on the two deeps but is a significant step down from Piscitelli and Afalava. Moving Bryan Payton to safety seemed like a good idea as he has a long, athletic and muscular build, but off field issues kept him from playing time. His status with the team is being evaluated this month.
Walk-on Matt Sieverson is supposed to be offered a scholarship this year per the arrangements he made with the coaching staff before arriving in Corvallis. Walk-on Slade Norris wants a scholarship as well. One of them will backup a starter.
Austin Hall is a walk-on who has an uphill battle for playing time. Freshman Alfred Rowe will redshirt while Casey Kjos was recruited as an athlete and could end up on the defensive or offensive side of the ball. Either way the plan is to redshirt him.
Spring ball -
The starters are set, and finding the players to back up Piscitelli and Afalava is key. Drayton, Sieverson, Norris and Payton, if he returns to the team, will all compete for the backup spots. Look for Drayton to lock up the strong safety backup spot with Sieverson and Norris competing for the free safety spot. Lots of repetitions for the backups is key as the coaches try and narrow down the choices by the end of the month.
Hopefully the players come out hungry and the competition is fierce, if not look for the coaches to shift some of the athletes from other parts of the team over to the safety spots in hopes of finding the right player.
Keep your eye on - The backups. Without skilled depth the Beavers' secondary could be left exposed by an injury.