OREGON STATE HAS a potential superstar at defensive tackle in the form of Stephen Paea. But with teams expected to double-team and show him much more attention in '09, which of the other DT's will step up, and how effective overall might the OSU interior d-line be this season? BF.C in a continuing series leading up to fall camp breaks down all the angles at defensive tackle..


DEPTH CHART: DT: Jr. Stephen Paea, Sr. Latu Moala, RFr. Castro Masaniai | DT: Sr. Sioeli Nau, Jr. Mitchel Hunt, RFr. Castro Masaniai, Jr. Brennan Olander

PLAYERS LOST: Pernnell Booth (11 starts, 22 tackles, four for loss, one sack, two fumble recoveries)

INJURIESStephen Paea has been dealing with a bursa sac in his right knee since last November. It was still tender as recently as late May, but appeared to be getting better and he should be near 100 percent. Brennan Olander missed most of the spring with a nagging foot injury, but will be available in the fall. Jesse Fifita missed the last couple of practices with spinal stenosis - he is out for the year.

OVERVIEW: Heading into fall camp it's all about starting to find the right rotation at d-tackle.

The coaches still need to settle on a starter to line up next to standout junior Stephen Paea, but that might not be a huge issue as there is likely to be a high rate of rotation. What is most important is quality reps from guys when they're in there.

The Hulk, The Beast, Veni or just plain Stephen, the Beavs' Paea could be set for a monster year after bursting onto the scene last season.  He racked up 41 tackles from his DT spot as a sophomore, the fourth most out of the returning players, including 11 for loss and five sacks.

Paea might be the strongest college football player on any field this season and a lot of it is natural, he's only been lifting weights about four years. His bench? About 525 pounds. What about his squat? An absurd 720 pounds.

Paea earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors a year ago -- assumedly due to his sophomore status because, frankly, no one was better -- and is generally considered a lock for an All-Pac-10 team this season. 

If he does make an All-Pac-10 team he will be the first defensive tackle to do so in Corvallis since Sir Henry Anderson was a second team selection in 2005.

With DE's Victor Butler and Slade Norris gone, Paea will be the focus of opposing team's offense. It will be interesting to see how he, and defensive coordinator Mark Banker, adjust to the added attention.

It is entirely possible that his statistics will go down, but that doesn't mean he isn't being effective.  His expected double teams will free up the defensive ends, his fellow defensive tackles for one on one coverage as well as the linebackers.

The players that should benefit from the one on one coverage throughout the year are Brennan Olander, Sioeli Nau and Latu Moala.

Before injuring his foot and missing the spring Brennan Olander was considered the top candidate for the other starting spot. The former wrestler is tough as nails and strong; he complements Paea's play well.

Unfortunately, it will probably take Olander a little bit of time to get back to full strength.  That leaves the door wide open for seniors Sioeli Nau and Latu Moala, who received the bulk of the snaps with the first team in the spring.

Since Paea is so active on the line, a big, running stopping slobber knocker is what the coaches are looking for to lineup next to him.

Nau tips the scales at just over 300 pounds.  He is in the mold of Booth - strong and adept at stopping the run. 

Moala is more slippery than Olander and Nau as he can get into the backfield, but he can also help clog up the middle.  In limited action, he had five tackles last year but his numbers belied his play in ways that didn't show in a box score.

With Olander potentially needing more time to heal up at the outset of fall camp, Nau is arguably the leading candidate to  start with Moala providing the main backup.

Long time Beaver Hunt is also in the mix, but seems more comfortable and perhaps effective at defensive end.

Another name of note includes Castro Masaniai - a redshirt freshman that figures to receive plenty of repetitions in camp - especially with Nau and Moala being seniors.

Masaniai is a stout 296 pounds with excellent strength. 

AN OPTIMIST WOULD SAY: Paea is one of the best, and perhaps the best, defensive tackles in the Pac-10. And there are several players who have been in the OSU system for many years and are ready to contribute.

A PESSIMIST WOULD SAY: The inexperienced DT's won't be able to pick up the slack and Paea won't be able to have near the same impact with the expected, added attention.

STAR PLAYERStephen PaeaUnreal strength, plus quickness, athleticism, smarts - Paea has it all. An absolute beast in the weight room.

UNIT STRENGTH: Paea. Yes, he is worth mentioning again.

UNIT WEAKNESSProven experience opposite Paea.


NOTABLE NOTE: The Beavers finished higher then the Pac-10 media predicted in each of the last three years.

STATSPaea (13 games, 12 starts): 41 tackles, 11 for loss, 5 sacks | Olander (13 games, 1 start): five tackles, .5 for loss | Moala (13 games): five tackles, 1.5 for loss | Nau: (13 games): four tackles, one for loss | Hunt (9 games, 1 start): three tackles


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