COMMENTARY: Seven on D, redux

IT'S BEEN MENTIONED regularly this winter on espn.com and elsewhere, Oregon State will need to replace their entire starting defensive backfield and seven starters all told on a defense that ranked No. 23 in total defense last season. The obvious implication is that OSU will struggle on defense in 2009. But here's the part they're leaving out..

Oregon State was replacing seven starters -- their entire starting defensive front seven -- coming into the 2008 season, too.

There were plenty of doubts a year ago as well. Few believed prior to the '08 campaign the Beavers would be anywhere close to what they had been in 2007 when they lead the nation in run defense.

And look how that turned out.

Only three teams in the nation had more sacks (39) than did the Beavers in 2008.

And when the book closed on the '08 season, the Beavs were rated among the nation's top 40 in defending the run.

Oregon State ranked No. 22 nationally in pass defense, No. 32 in pass efficiency defense and No. 47 in scoring defense.

And No. 23 in total defense.

And speaking of total defense, only USC in the Pac-10 was statistically better than was Oregon State -- a Beaver team that, again, was replacing every single defensive line and linebacker starter.

Oregon State held seven teams to under 300 total yards on offense in 2008. They held USC to their lowest total offensive output on the season, 311 yards, and handed the Trojans their only loss. Against Pitt, they stuffed an All-America running back and the No. 1 offense in the Big East, holding the Panthers to an are-you-kidding-me 178 total yards.

What Oregon State did on defense last season, with seven new starters, was nothing short of exceptional.

Comparing 2007 to 2008, the Beavers gave up six more total yards a game this past season, and 0.62 of a point.

And while it would be unreasonable to "expect" the Beavers to tear up the Pac-10 on defense in 2009 while again replacing so many starters, the lessons of 2008 should not be altogether forgotten either.


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