PLAYERS LOST: Victor Butler (First team All-Pac-10, 65 tackles, 21.5 for loss, 12 sacks, four forced fumbles, one interception), Slade Norris (Honorable mention All-Pac-10, 57 tackles, 18.5 for loss, 10 sacks, two pass breakups, three forced fumbles)
INJURIES: Matt LaGrone is coming off of a wrist injury, he missed all of spring practice, but is expected to be healthy when camp starts. Tonu Tuimalealiifano unfortunately had knee surgery again and missed spring practice. He missed all of 2008 with a similar injury.
OVERVIEW: Similar to the receivers on offense, the defensive end unit is rife with potential, but has yet to prove it on Saturdays. From Kevin Frahm and Ben Terry to Matt LaGrone and Gabe Miller, there seems to be loads of talent waiting to blossom.
Unfortunately there isn't a whole lot of experience as just two players, Ben Terry and Kevin Frahm, have played in a game, with Terry having arguably the most impact to date.
It still remains to be seen if any of the aforementioned players will develop into star players, but one thing seems apparent - there will be significantly more rotation this year than last, and the Beavs weren't all that shy about rotating a bit last year to keep Butler and Norris fresh.
On the left side, there's Terry, who played in all 13 games last season, grabbing 11 tackles. He has yet to log a sack as a Beaver, but improved significantly as was in on more and more plays as the season wore on.
Indeed, at times, he was just a few inches away from making a huge play. The best example -- the sight of USC's Mark Sanchez just slipping away from Terry's grasp, who all but had him dead to rights.
But now that he is comfortable in the OSU system, he can play at full speed and this year bring down that USC quarterback. Is he an every down player? That remains to be seen, although he seemed to do well in spring practice.
Matt LaGrone and Gabe Miller are two players who have impressed in practice. LaGrone is one of the most intriguing players on the roster, but unfortunately missed the spring recovering from wrist surgery.
At 6-foot-6 he has a tremendous reach, good strength and athleticism to boot. He made an impression during the season earning scout team defensive honors. At this point in his career, the coaches envision LaGrone primarily as a third down specialist.
Another player that the coaches anticipate as a third down weapon is Miller.
He has plenty of experience, just on the other side of the ball. In his first spring practice on defense, the converted tight end turned plenty of heads with his non-stop motor, toughness and big steps.
The Oregonian was a thorn in the offensive tackles sides as he consistently got into the backfield, even against some of the more experienced players. In the offseason, he added 10 pounds bulking up to 240 which is his ideal playing weight.
After spring ball, Miller might not have been an every down player, but he could develop into one. And he's certainly one to watch closely in fall camp.
Redshirt freshman Taylor Henry is another intriguing prospect on defense. With a nasty first step he reminded this writer of a smaller DeLawrence Grant. He is slated to play on third downs - similar to what Victor Butler did in 2007 where he come off of the bench and wreaked havoc.
The right side of the line will be manned by Kevin Frahm who is almost the complete opposite of the already mentioned players.
Frahm is one of the strongest players on the team relying on the bull-rush and spin moves to get to the quarterback. He is in the Jeff Van Orsow vein, but vastly stronger.
Frahm has a motor and a half. He's still learning the game, and that only comes from experience.
He needs to stay within his assignment and not over-commit, but he's very strong and has the tools needed to become a solid run stopper and pass rusher.
Other players in the d-end mix are defensive tackle Mitchel Hunt and Andrew Seumalo, thee son of defensive line coach Joe Seumalo.
Hunt has displayed his versatility, playing both on the interior and outside. After battling injury after injury over his career, he is in his best shape since arriving in Corvallis.
The coaches love that he is big enough to disrupt the tight ends on the outside yet nimble enough to throw a kink into the backfield.
Seumalo is another walk-on who has impressed the coaches, both with his strength and his desire to get to the quarterback.
Whoever is in the rotation harassing the quarterback is essential to the team's success. If the defensive ends struggle it could be a long day for an inexperienced secondary, even if Tim Clark and company turn out to be pretty good.
So, what can we expect from this year's group? It seems ludicrous to think there wouldn't be a drop-off. Butler and Norris alone last season accounted for 40 tackles-for-loss and 22 sacks (38 percent and 56 percent of the team's totals, respectively).
But history also tells us that the defense might well pick up right where they left off. No one expected Butler and Norris to shine as brightly as they did in '08.
And since 2006, the Beavers have grabbed 130 sacks or 43 sacks per season ranking in the top of the Pac-10, and in the nation, in tackles for loss and sacks per game.
Coaches Mark Banker, Joe Seumalo and Greg Newhouse have done a superb job molding and forming the defensive unit to its strengths. Until proven otherwise, there is no reason to believe they won't do it again.
AN OPTIMIST WOULD SAY: LaGrone and Miller will flourish and Henry, who has had plenty of time in the system, will be deadly on third downs. Terry and Frahm will hit the ground running giving the Beavers a solid starting twosome with plenty of hungry, productive backups providing them rest.
A PESSIMIST WOULD SAY: Terry and Frahm are the only players returning with any experience - and little experience at that. Replacing even half of Butler and Norris' sacks is going to be difficult at best which means a long day for the secondary.
STAR PLAYER: To be determined.
UNIT STRENGTH: Speed and athleticism. This unit is built for speed.
UNIT WEAKNESS: Experience. Just 15 tackles return at defensive end from a year ago.
INCOMING RECRUITS: Mana Rosa. Naturally strong, athletic player who can play defensive end or tackle - expected to redshirt. Kevin Unga. Just got back from his two-year LDS Mission to Chile - expected to redshirt.
NOTABLE NOTE: The defense ranked fourth in the nation and first in the Pac-10 for sacks and tackles for loss per game.
STATS: Terry (13 games): 11 tackles, one for loss, one forced fumble | Frahm (13 games): four tackles, one for loss