Fall Camp Preview - Defensive Line

There isn't a Bill Swancutt or Inoke Breckterfield type player on the roster, but if you believe there is strength in experience then the Oregon State defensive line is your unit. Only two starters return from a year ago, but seven players are back who have played in at least 10 games each last season.

Depth chart beginning of April:

DE: Dorian Smith, Naymon Frank, Slade Norris, Tom Hansen, Taani Fuahala

DT: Curtis Coker, William Akau'ola Vea, Sioeli Nau

DT: Gerard Lee, Pernell Booth, Mitchel Hunt, Brenan Olander

DE: Jeff Van Orsow, Victor Butler, Jeff Kruskamp, Evan Hull, Carl Summer, Keith Robertson

 

Depth chart start of August:

DE: Dorian Smith, Naymon Frank, Slade Norris, Tom Hansen, Taani Fuahala

DT: Curtis Coker, William Akau'ola Vea, Sioeli Nau

DT: Gerard Lee, Pernell Booth, Mitchel Hunt, Brenan Olander

DE: Jeff Van Orsow, Jeff Kruskamp, Victor Butler, Keith Robertson, Evan Hull, Carl Summer

 

Injuries:
  • Jeff Van Orsow - sat out the entire month resting his left foot
  • Mitchel Hunt - sidelined at the end of the month with a knee injury
  • Pernell Booth - missed the last few practices with a foot injury

 

Overview:

There isn't a Bill Swancutt or Inoke Breckterfield type player on the roster, but if you believe there is strength in experience then the Oregon State defensive line is your unit.

Only two starters return from a year ago, but seven players are back who have played in at least 10 games each last season.

The ends are set with Dorian Smith, the team's leading returning sack leader (9), and Jeff Van Orsow, who missed the entire month healing a left foot injury. Smith started just one game last year, but was one of the first off of the bench.

It took him awhile to adjust to Pac-10 ball recording just one sack in first five games as a Beaver. It started to click for him around the same time the team started to click as he recorded 2.5 sacks at Washington.

His numbers don't jump out at you as he failed to grab a sack in four of the last five games of the year. What isn't measured in the boxscore is the pressure he put on the opposing team's offensive lineman and the added attention he required at the end of the year. He was constantly wreaking havoc in the backfield even if the statistics don't show it.

Smith excels at pass rushing, but also does a nice job of taking up space. With a season and a spring practice under his belt Smith is poised to have a big year.

Lining up on the other side of the line is Van Orsow who led all defensive lineman with 48 tackles, including 10 for loss, good for fourth on the team. Unfortunately he sat out the entire month of April, but as a veteran he knows the system and will be ready when August rolls around. Van Orsow has been named to the Lott Trophy Watch List.

Behind the two ends are Naymon Frank, who had one of the better spring practices on defense, and Victor Butler, who continues to improve. Frank is by far the largest of the defensive ends weighing in at 285 pounds, but showed excellent agility mixed with brute force. Definitely keep your eye on Frank this season.

Butler possesses superb speed off the end and is almost exclusively used in passing situations. Slade Norris has a similar build and skill set as Butler, but is fairly new to the defensive line after switching from linebacker to defensive end during the 2006 season.

This is Jeff Kruskamp's fifth and final year in the system. He turned his best spring since being in Corvallis as he worked his way up into the two-deeps with his aggressive, knowledgeable play.

Oregon prep standout Keith Robertson finally made it to the Mid Valley, but arrived out of shape. Spring practice and the summer months was a time for Robertson to get back in football shape. He has done a nice job shedding 15 pounds.

Robertson has the skills to be an impact player and could most certainly move up the depth chart midway through the season. The coaches hope he can have the same type of impact Smith did last year, hopefully sooner.

Sophomore Tom Hansen has put his time in at practices, but has lots of experienced players in front of him. But with the line's high substitution philosophy look for Hansen to get some, although limited, playing time.

Evan Hull and Taani Fuahala are two walk-ons who face an uphill battle for playing time. Carl Sommer, one of the first verbals of the 2007 recruiting class, graduated early from high school and participated in spring practice. He is expected to redshirt.

The tackles are in a similar position as the ends as they are loaded with experience and depth. Curtis Coker, one of the team's emotional leaders, is in his final season. He has played in 35 career games. Keep an eye on Coker as he could be a big factor in the defense's success this year.

Rotating in and out with Coker is William Akau'ola Vea who really started to play really well at the end of the year. He finished with 16 tackles, including three sacks, in limited playing time. Junior college transfer Sioeli Nau impressed during his first spring on the Tommy Prothro practice fields.

He is a tireless worker who has impressive size and strength. Nau is almost immovable in the middle clogging up running lanes left and right. It will be hard to keep him off of the field and his leadership skills are highly valued off of the field.

The battle for the other tackle spot is between Gerard Lee and Pernell Booth. Lee uses his speed to get to the quarterback while Booth is more of big body to clog up the middle. It looks like Lee will get the start as him and Coker compliment each other well. Booth was slowed down at the end of the month with a foot injury.

Unfortunately, Mitchel Hunt injured his knee late in April forcing him onto crutches. Hunt will most likely miss the first half of the year. He was slated to help on special teams as there are too many veterans in front of him to get on the turf.

 

Weaknesses: Strengths:
  • A dominate tackle
  • A dominate end
  • Lots of players with game experience
  • A proven system that works and that the players believe in

 

DL Statistics:


* Click on picture to enlarge statistics in a new window.

 

Top spring performer:

Naymon Frank. After bouncing around from offensive line to defensive line and back and forth once more it looks like Frank has found a home at defensive end.

Frank consistently disrupted the backfield using his superior strength to shove the offensive line backwards, but he is not a one trick pony. He surprisingly has excellent agility using a variety of spin and swim moves to get to the running back and quarterback.

 

DL spring summary in three sentences or less:

Some veterans rested while the rest continued to plug away.

 

Notable quotes:

On the defensive line - "I feel good about our defensive line because there are so many guys coming back that have played. We will miss Ben and Joe Lemma - those guys were steady for our team, played real well and gave us a lot of heart. We have tremendous depth there and I suspect we will get to the point where we will play a lot of guys."

 

Who's coming in the fall:

Prep players DE Kyle Bell (case file) and DE Kevin Frahm (case file) will redshirt while DE Latu Moala (case file), depending on his development, could see playing time - although the team is set at defensive end and redshirting him would make sense.

 

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