CB: Sr. James Dockery, So. Jordan Poyer, RFr. Sean Martin So.
S: Jr. Lance Mitchell, So. Josh LaGrone, RFr. Dax Dilbeck, RFr. Zeke Sanders
S: Jr. Cameron Collins, Sr. Suaesi Tuimaunei, So. Anthony Watkins, RFr. Levi Levasa
CB: Jr. Brandon Hardin, So. Keynan Parker, RFr. Rashaad Reynolds, RFr. Greg Anderson
INJURIES: Sean Martin (shoulder surgery)
OVERVIEW: With two punishing, ball hawking safeties and a pair of corners who have the potential to lock down one side of the field, offenses could find it very hard to throw on the Men in Black.
"They made a lot of plays and we have very good depth at those positions," coach Mike Riley said. "We have better depth at corner than we've just about ever had and more depth at safety than we've ever had."
That's good news, since the pass defense yielded an average of 235.1 passing yards per game in '09 -- the sixth highest total in the conference. A large part of that less than satisfactory number is a lack of a pass rush, but that should change in 2010.
DID YOU KNOW: Collins is a beast in the weight room, with a team high 340-pound clean.
The leaders of the secondary include junior Cameron Collins and senior James Dockery.
Checking in at a rock solid 230-pounds, Collins is one of the most imposing safeties in the Pac-10. He was the team's third leading tackler a year ago notching 70 stops, taking over the starting position in the fourth game of the season.
Since it is his second year as a starter, Collins' his reads will be better which means there will likely be many more highlight hits.
With the departure of linebacker David Pa'aluhi, plenty of talented players behind Collins plus questions at defensive end, there's been some talk the coaches could implement a 3-4 defense with Collins on the line of scrimmage acting as a linebacker.
Expect a big leap in development from Dockery, who was voted a co-team captain this season. The 181-pounder oozes confidence and has developed into a corner who can handle one on one coverage.
Finesse or athleticism - whatever you want to call it - make up a big part of Dockery's game. Last season, he sometimes got manhandled at the line of scrimmage in press coverage. In the off season he hit the weights hard and looks to have grown into his body. He isn't the wiry player he was last year.
"I think we definitely took some steps to grow but there's still some inconsistency problems with myself, with Brandon, with everybody back there," Dockery said.
Junior Brandon Hardin, another physically imposing specimen at 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, rounds out the starting cornerbacks. Of course the coaches love his size - he can jam almost any receiver at the line of scrimmage - but he also has speed to go with it.
Hardin cracked the starting lineup for three games in '09, replacing the injured Tim Clark.
The big knock on Hardin's game is his inconsistency. He can lockdown a side of the field, but he also hasn't done it every play.
Hardin will have plenty of motivation to stay focused though. Sophomore Jordan Poyer is chomping at the bit to get on the field and if Hardin doesn't perform, Poyer will get a shot.
The Astoria High graduate is one of the top athletes on the team and one of eight true freshman to play in 2009. As a freshman, Poyer made 10 tackles on special teams, one less than the team leader. And Poyer seems to always be around the ball.
A good showing on special teams for the Beavs has in the past usually been a good indicator a guy will be a good player on defense and it's especially held true for corners.
Junior safety Lance Mitchell may be the most least lauded star on the team. He is the team's top returning tackler (72) and interceptor (3), but doesn't get much press.
With another strong season in 2010, Mitchell would finally be up for postseason honors. The junior has a knack for being around the ball and making a big play.
Perhaps the biggest plus headed into fall camp -- The Beaver secondary looks to be three deep at every position. Besides Poyer, sophomore Keynan Parker, redshirt freshman Rashaad Reynolds and redshirt freshman Sean Martin will be competing for playing time at cornerback and all have shown flashes of talent.
Parker posses tremendous speed but was slowed down with a shoulder injury last year. The Canadian will cut his teeth on special teams before earning significant playing time on the islands.
After redshirting a year ago, Reynolds will also work primarily with special teams. Keep your eye on him -- he could be the next standout special teams player for the Beavs.
The coaches really like what Martin brings to the table, but he missed spring practice with a shoulder injury.
Poyer looks from here to be the first off of the bench, so the trio looks to have plenty of time and practice turns to get comfortable on special teams before being called upon to defender a receiver.
The safety positions are just plain stacked. After being replaced as a starter last year, senior Suaesi Tuimaunei has gained his confidence back, turning in one of the better spring practices.
According to defensive coordinator Mark Banker, Tui is the fastest safety on the team, he just lost his way a bit last year.
The 6-foot-1 Tui displayed consistent technique and was reacting the ball quickly during spring drills.
A trio of youngsters sit behind Tui and the starters. Sophomore Josh LaGrone missed most of 2009 due to a knee injury. The coaches were talking him up before he got injured.
LaGrone shined on the scout team in 2008 earning MVP honors. But LaGrone has plenty of competition with sophomore Anthony Watkins and redshirt freshman Dax Dilbeck playing superbly in spring ball.
The duo seemingly grabbed at least one interception each practice between them, and were always around the ball. At the least, they should make a large impact on special teams in ‘10.
And there's even better news for the future as former BYU safety Shiloah Te'o joined the OSU program in the summer and will be available in 2011.
STATS: Lance Mitchell (72 tackles, three interceptions, seven pass breakups), Cameron Collins (70 tackles, 1.5 for loss, four pass breakups), Suaesi Tuimaunei (41 tackles), James Dockery (38 tackles, 2.5 for loss, two interceptions), Brandon Hardin (29 tackles, four pass breakups), Anthony Watkins (11 tackles), Jordan Poyer (11 tackles)
|SPRING STAR||RFr. Dax Dilbeck. It seemed like he grabbed an interception each practice.|
|THE FUTURE STARS||RFr. Dax Dilbeck or So. Anthony Watkins. Both are ball hawks.|
|WHO TO WATCH||
So. Jordan Poyer. One of the most versatile athletes on the team with great instincts, the coaches want him on the field.
|COMING IN THE FALL||S Ryan Murphy (A versatile athlete who can lineup at several positions) CB Ryan Handford (Junior college transfer who has three to play two, earned outstanding freshman award at Santa Ana College).|
|UNIT STRENGTH||UNIT WEAKNESS|
|Leadership and depth. Experience and talented players littered the depth chart from top to bottom. Riley says it the most depth he has had at corner and safety ever.||Consistency. Every unit strives for this -- many times it is out of a team's grasp, it isn't for the Beavers.|
THE BIG BOARD
Sr. James Dockery (6-1, 176) - 13 career starts, all consecutive...only member of the secondary to start all 13 games in 2009...tied for seventh in the Pac-10 with 10 passes defended...extremely athletic and rangy...one of the vocal leaders of the team...made 38 tackles, including 2.5 for loss in 2009...sometimes has trouble jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage
So. Jordan Poyer (5-11, 189) - one of the most pleasant surprises of 2009, the coaches want him on the field...one of eight true freshman to play in 2009...also played safety...second on the team with 10 special teams tackles...super athletic with natural football instinct...excelled as a gunner in 2009...also returned kickoffs later in the year
RFr. Sean Martin (5-11, 170) - missed 2010 spring practice with a shoulder injury...expected to compete for playing time when he is healthy...redshirted in 2009...needs to add 10-15 pounds
So. Brian Watkins (5-9, 179) - the younger brother of Anthony Watkins...a walk on...faces an uphill battle for playing time
RFr. Greg Anderson (5-11, 176) - walked on in spring of 2010...played high school ball at David Douglas High in Oregon...earned first team Mt. Hood League running back honors as a senior
Jr. Cameron Collins (6-2, 230) - 10 straight starts...took over starting duties at Cal on 11/7...fourth on the team with 70 stops...had a good off season in the weight room according to strength coach Bryan Miller...an imposing figure at 230 pounds...very physical
Sr. Suaesi Tuimaunei (6-1, 205) - had an outstanding spring...has his confidence back...the fastest safety on the team...a big hitter...after starting the first four games of the year was replaced in the lineup...10 special teams tackles - tied for second most on the team...41 tackles in 2009...earned first team All-Pac-10 honors as a special teams player...the extra defensive back in the team's nickel package
So. Anthony Watkins (6-1, 215) - a ball hawk...seven tackles on special teams...a standout scout team player in 2008...missed most of 2009 due to shoulder surgery...look for him to have a big impact on special teams
RFr. Levi Levasa (5-11, 208) - walk on from Tualatin High...redshirted in 2009...faces an uphill battle for playing time
Jr. Lance Mitchell (6-2, 207) - 12 starts, nine straight...a natural athlete who makes it look easy...third on the team with 72 tackles, the most out of returning players...a team high three interceptions...tied for seventh in the Pac-10 with 10 passes defended last season
So. Josh LaGrone (6-1, 200) - coaches were very excited about him before he got hurt...added 10 pounds in the offseason...missed most of 2009 due to knee surgery...a scout team standout in 2008
RFr. Dax Dilbeck (6-1, 203) - named MVP for the defensive scout team following the 2009 season...expected to compete for playing time...a future star on special teams...redshirted in 2009...added 10 pounds in the off season
RFr. Zeke Sanders (6-1, 212) - redshirted in 2009...in contention to return kickoffs...added 16 pounds during redshirt year
Jr. Brandon Hardin (6-2, 219) - three starts...had a good offseason in the weight room according to strength coach Bryan Miller...big, physical corner who can mix it up with anyone...needs to work on locating the ball in the air...11 special teams tackles, the most on the team...an excellent gunner...last year had standout games positionally at corner, but then also then some where he missed tackles
So. Keynan Parker (5-11, 177) - participated in the 2010 UW Last Chance Meet in the 60-meter dash finishing with a time of 6.86, also ran in the Husky Indoor Classic finishing with a top 20 time...slowed down by a shoulder injury in 2009...did not record a statistic last year...one of the fastest players on the team
RFr. Rashaad Reynolds (5-10, 177) - competed in the 2010 UW Last Chance Meet in the 60-meter dash running 7.27, also ran in the Husky Indoor Classic...expected to compete for playing time...added 12 pounds during redshirt year...looks to be a standout on special teams...redshirted in 2009