Fall Camp Focus: Defensive Line

A year has past and little has changed with the defensive line. They are still on the hot seat after underperforming in ‘05. Although largely the personnel on the field has not changed the man in charge of the troops has. Coach Joe Seumalo has instilled confidence and pride to a once battered group slowing molding them into cohesive unit.

And while it will most likely take this season for the group to fully grasp his the love for playing defensive line and his passion for technique expect to see a huge improvement from game-to-game. Seumalo stresses speed, both physically and mentally and much like coach Mike Cavanaugh he is a stickler for technique. Good coaching results in faster development by the players from weekend to weekend which usually results in greater success for the unit and team.

The, literally, largest difference on the line is at defensive tackle where a pair of 300-pounders moved onto the NFL. And while the 300-pounders don’t put up gaudy numbers they do congest the middle where the Beavers have dominated the past four years ranking no lower than third in the conference each season.

With the likes of Eric Manning, Dwan Edwards and Sir Henry Anderson clogging the middle it enabled linebackers Nick Barnett and Trent Bray to led the conference in tackles and take home all-conference honors. And while there are three defensive tackles above 300 pounds none of them are of the same caliber as Manning or Edwards.

The only 300-pounder slated for significant playing time is Curtis Coker who sits atop the depth chart at right tackle. Junior Naymon Frank and sophomore Pernell Booth are both over 300 pounds, but will see little time on the field. With Ben Siegert and junior college transfer Gerard Lee in the 280-pound range the Beavers lose 20-30 pounds of leverage from a year ago. But the staff thinks Lee can easily add 25-30 pounds to his frame and keep his speed, although that is unlikely to happen during the season. Junior William Vea, who is just a shade under 300 pounds, redshirt last year and could see some time this year.

OSU Rushing Defense
Year   Conf. Finish (Yds)
----   -----------------
2002   Third (94.2)
2003   Second (84.4)
2004   Third (117.2)
2005   First (108.0)

The projected outlook at defensive tackle is Siegert starting at left tackle with Lee or Coker at right tackle. It doesn’t really matter who starts as both will see lots of time on the field. Booth and Frank sit on the two deeps behind Siegert.

What this means is that the Orange Men are relatively small at the tackle positions when Siegert and Lee are in the game. Siegert likes to mix it up though so getting physical in the trenches is not a problem for him. Plus, middle linebackers Alan Darlin and Bryant Cornell are big boys who bring a lot of pop and will assist in plugging the holes. If Darlin has a big season much of his success will be the result of the defensive tackles doing their jobs well.

With the tackle positions hashed out our attention turns to the much scrutinized defensive ends. Like I said above the biggest improvement to the defensive line this year was getting a new coach. The defensive ends in particular have really latched onto Seaumalo’s teachings.

And despite only adding junior college transfer Dorian Smith on the end there are many things working the defensive ends way. For one, they have a better secondary behind them which will allow them that extra half second to get to the quarterback. Two they have all have an additional year of experience. And three, they have their confidence back and better knowledge of how to use their bodies.

We all know that the offensive line is going to be good this year and they pretty much dominated the defensive line for most of April. The excellent news in the last week of camp and the spring game is the defensive line started to push back. Center Kyle DeVan was impressed with their play saying that they have improved leaps and bounds from last year already.

Part of their motivation comes from their coach while the other part comes from wanting to prove their critics wrong. They know they turned in a sub-par performance and want to show that they can affect the game without Bill Swancutt.

One of the hardest working men on the team is Jeff Van Orsow (pictured right) who has improved every year in the program. He knows the schemes, how to use his hands and how to position his body better than a year ago. He is a power guy, but is working on an array of moves to give him an advantage.

Right end Joe Lemma has that blue-collar mentality as well and although he is undersized, he can do some damage if ignored. The enigma of the group is Joe Rudulph who is one of the most physically gifted athletes on the team, but has been hampered by off field issues and with keeping his weight up. Sophomore Victor Butler is by far the smallest end on the team at 233, but he was a difference maker on special teams coming off of the end and could see his time on the line increase.

Junior Jeff Kruskamp switched from tight end to defensive end in 2005 due to, believe it or not, too much depth at tight end and lack of depth at defensive end. With just Joe Newton and Jason Vandiver at tight end along with several incoming freshman, the coaches may switch him back to the offensive side of the ball. But don’t count on it as depth at defensive end isn’t exactly all peaches and cream.

Junior college transfer Dorian Smith showed up to camp late and out of shape. The coaches have him on a meal and weight plan and hope it pays off in August as they expect him to make a run at the two deeps.

Once again there are a lot of questions and I think this is the key to the Beavers' season. They need everybody from Van Orsow to Kruskamp to step up their play for the team to go bowling in 2006. No pressure on the quarterback means another excruciating long year for the Oregon State defense...and it's fans.

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