RILEY: Talking speed and depth up front on D

THE BEAVS HAD their d-line moments in '09, there were some solid performances in spots. Overall, however, it simply wasn't a great year up front and the total sacks -- 17, the fewest by an OSU team in the decade -- was indicative of the downturn. But post-spring ball, this upcoming season is shaping up quite a bit differently. Speed kills, and Mike Riley says the Beavs have it up front on defense.

"I was really, really pleased by the end of spring ball with the speed we looked like had up front, which has been our forte," said Mike Riley.

Indeed, there's really only one major item the Beaver coaching staff has yet to nail down with regards to the d-line. But first, the d-line interior, and there aren't many question marks there.

"I thought the interior was outstanding," said Riley of his DTs this spring.

Stephen Paea and Brennan Olander combine to form a starting 1-2 punch at d-tackle that might end up being the conference's best. Paea is a special player, with a rare combination of strength and speed, and much will be written about him this preseason as his All-America candidacy continues to bloom.

Olander would be getting a lot more notice if he didn't play on the same team as Paea. Formerly a wrestler and football walk-on, he earned a scholie last year because he's very quick -- his 8.0 tackles-for-loss tied for the team lead last year. Olander was in the news this offseason for some poor decisions (golf cart, bicycle) but Riley is adamant that there was no real criminal intent, and he should be present and accounted for when fall camp starts on Aug. 8.

BUT DEPTH AND quality play in rotation is almost always the difference between a good d-line and a great one. And that depth inside is what has the '10 OSU interior looking as formidable as it does here in June. No fewer than three d-tackle reserves could make a significant impact this season.

"I think the interior is really solid. The addition of Kevin Frahm, with already Stephen Paea and Olander (there) -- and I thought Castro Masaniai had a good spring, and I thought Evan Hull had a really good spring. I hope I'm not leaving anyone else out in there," said Riley.

AT DEFENSIVE END, it was a different case heading into spring ball. Senior-to-be Matt LaGrone was pegged as not only a starter but the hope was he would be a true Pac-10 pass-rushing menace -- he was already drawing similarities to what Victor Butler did his senior season.

But then LaGrone quit the team hours before the spring drills began. Well, forget about depth. The Beavs now suddenly needed a legit Pac-10 starter opposite Gabe Miller. And they look to have found one this spring.

Taylor Henry took huge strides forward this offseason, and he spent loads of time in the backfield and disrupting the offense this spring.

"I think Taylor Henry had an outstanding spring, and he added about 15 pounds from the year before," said Riley.

A STOUT PASS RUSH coming off the edge is what was missing most last season, said Riley, and it was what the Beavs needed to re-capture most this spring. They thought they'd find it with LaGrone, but instead it appeared in the form of Henry.

"I think that was the missing link in that group," said Riley. "...And I think Gabe Miller is going to be a great player. I thought he improved each game last year and was a good player by the end of the year. He had a great spring, is in tremendous shape and is poised to have a very good year at defensive end."

ALL THINGS REMAINING equal between now and fall camp, that leaves one major item on the defensive line to-do list that needs to be checked off.

"And then I think we're working on finding out the rotation at defensive end. I think we have good depth inside," said Riley.

Indeed, what OSU needs is to find in fall camp, and via the summer voluntary workouts, are high performance d-end contributors and depth. (And if a guy surprises and plays well enough to challenge Miller or Henry for starting turns, so much the better).

But who might step up and earn it at defensive end remains to be seen -- whether it's Andrew Seumalo, Mana Rosa or Devon Kell -- or John Braun or Mitchel Hunt. Incoming JC transfer and former Oregon Duck Dominic Glover also arrives this fall, and also part of the 2010 class are Scott Crichton and Mana Tuivailala.

That's eight d-ends. If some of those eight are ready for primetime now -- this season -- that could well mean an Oregon State defensive line that ends up being great, and not just good.

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