One to watch in 2010: DT Castro Masaniai

ONE OF MANY players on the OSU roster with Hawaiian roots, defensive tackle Castro Masaniai is an up-and-coming force in the middle for the Beavers. Brennan Olander made huge strides in the latter half of the 2009 season, next to all-everything and fellow d-tackle Stephen Paea. But don't be surprised if Masaniai makes a strong press for playing time this coming season.

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Defensive tackle Castro Masaniai has been comin' on regardless, but further enhancing his '10 playing time prospects is the fact the Beavs lose Latu Moala and Sioeli Nau after this season to graduation.

Regular spectators at the Beavs' fall camp -- including yours truly -- saw the explosiveness at the point of contact from Masaniai and — for me at least — I thought of former Beaver great Dwan Edwards, now starting defensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.

At 6-2, 296 pounds, Masaniai fits the bill and has been a pleasant surprise inside as a redshirt freshman this season.

MASANIAI SAW TIME in nine games in '09, recording four tackles, including one for loss. As with most d-tackles, the stats don't tell the story -- some of Paea and Olander's best work this season came with someone else on the Beaver D logging the tackle.

With the experience gained in his freshman campaign, Masaniai should in 2010 add great depth to what should be a tremendous defensive line. Three of the four defensive ends (Matt LaGrone, Gabe Miller, Kevin Frahm) who started this season return, with only Ben Terry lost to graduation.

Just as important, all indications are that Paea will return for his senior season. Paea told Paul Buker of the Oregonian yesterday, "my thoughts are I'm coming back."

Imagine the productiveness of a d-tackle trio in 2010 of Paea, Olander and, if he continues along the same developmental path, Masaniai, with all three cracking pads in defensive coordinator Mark Banker's rotation.

LIKE HIS Tongan counterpart Paea, Masaniai is extremely athletic for such a big body. Hit ability to shed blocks and pursue the ball carrier is a strength.

And it's just that — strength — that should be worked on. Not many can duplicate what Paea possesses in terms of sheer power, however another offseason of workouts, and spring guidance by line coach Joe Seumalo, should refine his skills and propel Masaniai into serious playing time.

THERE'S MORE OF 2009 yet to come, with the Las Vegas Bowl and a pivotal matchup with No. 14 BYU coming next Tuesday. But with a young OSU squad losing few players to graduation, it's also not too early to start looking forward and some of the reasons why the Beavs will be among those forecast to challenge for the '10 conference crown:
One to watch in 2010: LB Kevin 'Unga
One to watch in 2010: WR Markus Wheaton


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