Oregon State Spring Ball questions, Part II

OREGON STATE FELL from a No. 32 pass efficiency defense ranking in 2008 to No. 64 in 2009. Spring practice begins March 29, and the defensive backfield is among the questions that loom for the 2010 Beavers..

1. Can the OSU coaches get the secondary back to being a force?

Last year was about an overhaul in the defensive backfield with four new starters. This year, it's more like tinkering on an already up and running machine in order to get the most horsepower possible.

Unlike last spring, the Beavers return three of the four starters from the previous season in the secondary, losing only CB Tim Clark. Clark missed a couple games this past season and his replacement, Brandon Hardin, was stellar at times. And he struggled in others.

Younger players are almost always inconsistent, as mental mistakes are more prone to being made. But if Hardin can stay healthy, which has been a problem at times, he has provided a good body of evidence that he can become a steady, rock solid defensive back in 2010.

The three returning starters are CB James Dockery, Lance Mitchell and Cameron Collins. No question about it, OSU struggled at times in the secondary last year. But they also slowly began to build some chemistry as the year went along.

Safeties Mitchell and Collins were further along than most first year starting safeties, and Dockery also shined at times. It goes back to consistency and the question this spring remains..

Can the Beaver coaches come out of spring with the secondary playing at a consistently high level?

1. Will this spring see the return of a formidable defensive line?

Most, those with realistic expectations anyway, expected some drop-off with the 2009 Beavers replacing both starting defensive ends and a d-tackle. But not many expected the Beavs to fall as far as they did -- OSU tallied just 17 sacks in 2009.

There is, however, reason to expect that will change this year, as outlined in this excellent article, http://oregonstate.scout.com/2/935900.html, by Dan Norz.

Defensive tackle, with the emergence Brennan Olander alongside all-everything Stephen Paea, looks to be stout. The larger question is at defensive end.

Will seniors Matt LaGrone and Gabe Miller, who won starting spots in the latter half of the season, continue on their upward climb? Will a resurgent Kevin Frahm re-stake his claim to a starting spot?

How about Taylor Henry, Castro Masaniai and Mana Rosa, will they suddenly emerge this spring? And while DT looks strong at the top, what about the depth behind Paea and Olander? Those questions and more begin to be answered March 29.

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