Spring preview '07 - Defensive line

It was just two years ago that the defensive line was one of the weakest positions in the program. But that weakness is now one of the team's strengths. Despite losing two seniors the line returns two players who have combined for 38 starts and a host of players that saw plenty of game time a year ago.

- Defensive Line -


- The good -

It was just two years ago that the defensive line was one of the weakest positions in the program. But that weakness is now one of the team’s strengths. Despite losing two seniors the line returns two players who have combined for 38 starts and a host of players that saw plenty of game time a year ago.

Once again the Beavers will implement a high rotation strategy to keep the players fresh and offenses guessing. This also gives more players a stake in the defense while allowing them to give 110-percent each play as they know their teammate will be in shortly to give them a rest.

The left end will be manned by Dorian Smith, who led the team with nine sacks in his first year in Corvallis. He also added 11.5 tackles for loss, third on the team, and 30 tackles, second among the defensive lineman.

It took Smith awhile to make his mark, but when he did the 6-foot-3, 258-pound player became a force to reckon with, helping turn OSU’s season around. His first big game came at Husky Stadium where he recorded seven tackles, including two sacks – the first time since the 2004 Civil War a Beaver had multiple sacks in one game.

Backing up Smith is Naymon Frank, the largest of the defensive ends at 6-foot-6, 312-pounds. Frank has bounced around from offensive line to the defensive multiple times but has solidified his spot on the defensive side of the ball as a senior. He received his first career start at Hawaii recording one tackle.

Did you know?

The Beavers led the Pac-10 in sacks with 47, 26 of the sacks were made by a defensive lineman.

Frank has put in a ton of time lifting weights and conditioning himself in the off season and will get plenty of playing time this season backing up both end positions.

Pernell Booth and William Vea will compete for the starting at left tackle. Both have plenty of experience as Booth played in 12 games recording nine tackles while Vea participated in 13, grabbing 16 stops, including three sacks – a team high for the tackles.

Booth is better at clogging the middle while Vea is better at getting to the quarterback. It doesn’t really matter who starts as the backup will receive plenty of playing time with the team’s high rotation philosophy.

The garrulous Curtis Coker, who has 13 starts under his belt, mans the right tackle where he hauled in 19 tackles, including two sacks a year ago. Competitive, confident, perhaps even a little bit cocky, Coker gives the Beavers a little bit of a swagger.

Similar to Frank, Gerard Lee put in lots of time in the training and weight rooms in the off season improving his physical attributes as he looks to be a larger factor in 2007. In his first year in the program he played in 14 games recording 20 tackles, including 1.5 sacks. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Lee take over a starting tackle position. Junior college transfer Siolei Nau, who enrolled in Janurary, will also be in the mix at tackle

The final player at defensive tackle is redshirt freshman Mitchel Hunt, who will have to wait one more year before competing for playing time. Hunt is the only scholarship underclassman defensive lineman on the roster this spring.

Senior Jeff Van Orsow is sitting out spring to rest his ankle. With Van Orsow out of the lineup that clears the way for a couple of younger players at left end – Victor Butler and converted safety Slade Norris.

Butler is one of the team’s quickest ends as he was used primarily in passing situations. He had 17 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 14 games. Norris impressed his teammates and coaches on the scout team and is looking to make a mark in his final year wearing the Orange and Black.

Both are considered pass rushing specialists, not every down players like Van Orsow, but have an opportunity to prove the coaches otherwise come April.

Keith Robertson finally made it to Corvallis as a walk-on. Big things were expected of him coming out of the prep ranks and it is difficult to gauge weather he will make an impact or not.


- The bad -

The durable Ben Siegert, who started a team high 39 games, is gone after grabbing 23 tackles, tops among the tackles, while earning Pac-10 honorable mention honors.

He is the only player in school history to block two kicks in one game and Riley called him one of the consistent, dependable players on the team.

Joe Lemma also leaves, but the team has plenty of players that will fill his role and much more.


- The question -

Will Lee push take over a starting spot from Booth or Coker?


- Riley says -

On losing Siegert and Lemma - “When you lose a guy like Ben Siegert, you are not only using a good football player but a great example of everybody for playing the game with toughness. You always knew what you were going to get in the ball game from Ben Siegert. And then Joe Lemma emerged last year after suffering through injures several years.”

On the current players – “But we have a lot of good depth, a lot of guys played. A lot of guys have worked great in the off-season to develop themselves physically. Naymon Frank comes to mind. Gerard Lee comes to mind. We have a very good core of returning players that performed very well a year ago.”

On Van Orsow - “Jeff will be one of the leaders of the team. He has made tremendous strides in this program and has developed into an outstanding player.”

Overall - “We lost a very good player in Ben Siegert, but I still feel we have a lot of talent at tackle. The amount of experience we have at both tackle and end gives us an opportunity to be as good or better than last season.”


- BF.com says -

For the first time in several years the Beavers look solid two-deep across the board on the defensive line. There are probably not any first-team All-Pac-10 players on the roster, but there is a lot of experience giving the team a ton of flexibility during a game.

The players love Joe Seumalo and his coaching style and are only going to get better going up against a solid offensive line. Look for the coaches to try almost everyone with game experience with the first team defense as they try and find the best mix of players.

As stated above, it will be a defensive line by committee type thing. It will be interesting to see if the same formula can work two years in a row. The good news is the coaches and players aren’t afraid to adjust and experiment if the method is not working.


- Keep your eye on -

Gerard Lee. Lee received more playing time at the end of the year and put in extra time in the off-season this year. This is only his second year at OSU, but his final one. Look for him to push for playing time and possibly take over a starting spot.


- The roster -

Right end
SR Jeff Van Orsow (6-4, 266) – led the defensive lineman with 48 tackles, including 10 for loss and three sacks…also added two forced fumbles and quarterback hurries…sitting out spring practice to rest an ankle…one of the leaders on defense…relentless…25 career starts…the most versatile end on the team.

JR Victor Butler (6-2, 233) – pass rush specialist…17 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 14 games…good quick first step…uses his speed to get to the outside.

JR Slade Norris (6-3, 242) – converted safety who was voted top scout team defensive member…pass rush specialist…nine tackles on special teams last year…coaches still want him to add 10-20 pounds.

Right tackle
SR Curtis Coker (6-1, 309) – feisty, confident player who does a nice job clogging up the middle…19 tackles with 2.0 sacks…a co-team high two recovered fumbles…an emotional player…13 career starts.

SR Gerard Lee (6-1, 280) – quick step player…20 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 14 games…will push Coker and Booth for playing time…one of the first players off of the bench.

JR Siolei Nau (6-2, 292) - junior college player from Snow College...enrolled in Janurary...expected to compete for playing time.

Left tackle
JR Pernell Booth (6-1, 302) – run stopping specialist…nine tackles in 2006…one career start against Idaho.

SR William ‘Akau’ola Vea (6-2, 282) – 16 tackles including 3.0 sacks, tops among defensive tackles…excels at getting in the backfield.

RFR Mitchel Hunt (6-2, 277) – will have to wait his turn before contributing…redshirted in 2006…the only underclassman scholarship player on the defensive line this spring.

Left end
SR Dorian Smith (6-3, 258) – led the team with nine sacks, including 2.5 at Washington and three at Hawaii...often requires a double team…30 tackles including 11.5 for loss and a co-team high two quarterback hurries…good upper body strength and leg drive.

SR Naymon Frank (6-5, 312) – one career start at Hawaii…played in 11 games notching 10 tackles, including one sack…worked very hard in the off season…uses the bull rush technique to overpower his opponent.

JR Keith Robertson (6-2, 245) - a highly touted prep player who has struggled with grades...tough to know what to expect.


- Defensive Line -

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