Ho-hum. Just another outstanding defensive unit. That's all that can be said about the Beavers defensive backs. Anchored by senior Dennis Weathersby, this unit will the best in Oregon State history. Sophomore Mitch Meeuwsen could get all-conference honors in his second year playing in the Pac-10. Terrell Roberts and whoever starts at the other safety will complete this foursome.
Weathersby, a sure All-American candidate, opens this season as what many call the nation's best cornerback. He has three years of starting experience under his belt. The next pass he breaks up will give him the OSU record for pass breakups in a career. He is an academic star in addition to his athletic skills. His fellow cover man is Terrell Roberts, who gained lots of important experience last year and will also be one of the best defensive backs in the conference. Mitch Meeuwsen was a Freshman All-American last year, following in the footsteps of Richard Seigler. Meeuwsen will roam the field making plays. He could become the OSU defensive points leader by the time he graduates. He has a knack for recovering fumbles.
Just who will start at the other safety? It doesn't matter. If Calvin Carlyle returns to his 2000 form, after a medical redshirt season last year, he will be the starter. There is no substitute for experience. But if he is unable, Lawrence Turner and Brandon Catanese, junior college transfers, are both more than capable. These guys were both enrolled at OSU beginning with the winter term, so they were eligible to participate in spring practice.
Turner and Catanese are similar players, being strong, fast, and highly aware. They both seem to have the ability to make huge, crushing hits. The ability to be in the right place at the right time is crucial for a safety, and both also showed that off this spring. Catanese intercepted two passes in the spring game. His were done in flashy style, too. He ripped one out of Kenny Farley's hands and took off and ran 54 yards on the return. Turner was also a big part of the black team's domination. Turner is first on the depth chart going into fall camp, but a lot can happen in those four weeks of practice.
Another junior college transfer that could play in the mix is Harvey (Hard-Hittin') Whiten. I've been told he hits harder than Catanese and Turner. He will transfer in with three years of eligibility from Compton City College.
And when listing all these great players, it's easy to forget about Aric Williams and Shamon (Big Daddy Orange's man) Jamerson. Jamerson could get time at cornerback and safety, while Williams will primarily play cornerback. Williams is taller than Roberts, but isn't as experienced. He was David Carr's best friend in the opener last year, being thrown into that game as his first game experienced. Carr worked him like a third job, but Williams showed improvement until Roberts was able to return against UCLA.
I thought big things were ahead for Shamon in 1999 when he showed such promise on the special teams unit. But after redshirting in 2000, he seems to be lost in the shuffle in the secondary. Make no mistake, Shamon will get some playing time before he leaves, but it may only be as a significant reserve. Look for him to possibly switch back to cornerback in 2003 to compete for the two starting positions with Williams, D.J. Coote and Jamaal Jackson.
Speaking of Coote, he'll redshirt this year while rehabilitating a torn ACL. He could be fully healthy by the times game start, but not quite game ready, so they'll hold him out a year. The depth is there, so he is better used waiting a year.
There's also a load of young talent in the secondary. Jackson and Rodney Landingham will see their first playing time this year as redshirt freshman. Both played well in spurts in the spring and are learning quite a bit from Weathersby and Roberts. Four high schoolers will join the team this year in Brandon Browner, Josh Davies, Kellen Marshall, and Robert Herbert. A fifth, Arthur Giddens was also announced on National Letter of Intent Day, but he will not qualify academically, sources inside the athletic department are telling us. All of these come to Corvallis highly regarded. It's not expected that any will play as true freshman in 2002.
The depth at the position is unbelievable. The only other position with talent this deep is receiver. But the talent on top is even more impressive in the secondary. An injury can be afforded this year, unlike last year when Roberts got hurt. The secondary will prove to be another defensive strength this year.
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