Defensive Line Preview

The Toe brings another inside look in his series previewing the 2002 OSU football team, position by position.

If there was one position that stood out in spring practice this year, it was the defensive line. The offense looked pitiful at points because of the great effort the defensive line was putting in. Derek Anderson probably learned an awful lot having to face the Beaver defense every day in practice. It will greatly help his maturation process to have the competition in practice every day.

Eric Manning and Dwan Edwards clog up the middle so well and will be the best defensive tackle combination in the Pac-10 in 2002. Manning will surely be a high NFL draft pick. He has been a key player for the Beavers for three years and will anchor the strong line. He has been a preseason All Pac-10 pick by most every preview magazine. And it is well deserved. He can be as dominating as last year's best Pac-10 tackle, Larry Tripplett. Teams will have to put a lot of focus on Manning, and Edwards will make teams pay for not focusing on him. The ends return with one more year of experience and just a bit more talented due to the depth we will see.

Henry Anderson and James Lee will be the primary backups at tackle. James Lee is a senior who has more size than Manning and Edwards. He has a good shot at joining Manning in the NFL after this season. Anderson was one of the surprises in spring practice, showing great skill. He also showed off a world class trash talking ability. He got into a few "conversations" in practice, but got a bit quieter when told to play a down in the Pac-10 before having so much to say. If his game is half as good as his mouth is, he will be a big time player before he leaves Corvallis. Alvin Smith, a transfer from Tulane, will join the team for fall practice, but will have to sit out a year due to NCAA regulations. Jeremy Weldon and Chris Scott will also get some action. Scott has the ability to punish offensive players that get in his way.

The ends also have the potential to be improved over last year. Noah Happe returns for his junior season after leading the team in sacks last year. Happe plays harder than anyone else. He brings energy and excitement similar to what Seigler brings. Seeing him break the wedge on a kickoff has been my most favorite memory of him in his career to this point. He is absolutely ferocious and I would not want to mess with him. Opposite Happe will be Dan Rothwell. Bill Swancutt was expected to the be the starter coming into spring, but Rothwell gained weight since the end of last season and was dominating on the outside. His height (6'7") will give opposing QBs problems. Those two may not be as consistent as Kyle Rosselle, the graduated end that they replace. Rosselle was a great contain end and rarely made mistakes, but both Rothwell and Swancutt more of a big-play making ability. You will see both these guys make some incredible plays.

Even though Swancutt is not starting, he will see plenty of time and could work himself into the starting rotation if Happe or Rothwell struggle. Providing more depth at end will be Jayson Jean-Baptiste and Alvin Steen. Jean-Baptiste redshirted last season to add more weight and it should be a move that pays off. He will see time in the rotation.

Instead of having to replace three starters on the line, like last year, the Beavers only have one to replace this year. They should be much improved overall on the line and have to improve on their questionable run defense from 2001 (see UCLA game). More depth is present than in recent years, so even a few minor injuries won't hurt too much, although losing Manning for an extended period would be awful. They should have no problem shutting down teams' passing attack. The line in 2002 will make a bigger impact early in the season.

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