Oregon State Preview: Defense

Taking a look at the Oregon State defense ahead of Saturday's Alamo Bowl.

Ask casual observers about this year's Oregon State team, and most will use an adjective like "nasty" or "physical." Many will opine that the Beavers play with an edge. And so much of that tone is set on the defensive side of the ball.

The Beavers allow fewer than 20 points per game, and have the nation's 14th ranked defense, while they rank sixth in passing downs S&P+. In short, Oregon State shuts down the run, then closes the noose when opposing teams have to pass.

Can the Beavers be run on? Sure. They allow 4.0 yards per carry. But a large portion of that comes with finding creases on the outside, as opposed to running through the teeth of a physical defense.

Oregon State has a tremendous front four that starts with nose tackle Castro Masaniai (6-3 354) and sophomore left end Scott Crichton (6-3 263). Masaniai destroys the middle of opposing offensive lines, making an impact that drastically exceeds his 21 tackle stat-line. When added to fellow starting tackle Andrew Seumalo (6-4 290), his impact grows. The two combined for 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.

While those two are helping to clog up the run, Crichton harasses opposing passers. The first-team All-Pac-12 performer had 42 tackles including 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Right end Dylan Wynn (6-2 265) isn't the pass-rusher Crichton is, though he's active, making 48 stops on the season.

The Beavers are athletic through the receiving corps, with middle linebacker Feti 'Unga prowling between the tackles. 'Unga has 52 stops and two tackles for loss, with outside linebackers D.J. Alexander (6-2 225) and Michael Doctor (6-0 223) flowing quickly to the ball. Doctor leads the team with 72 tackles, a big-play WILL with 10.5 stops in the backfield. Alexander runs well at the SAM spot, making 53 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss.

While the Beaver pass rush can be tremendous, the main reason Oregon State is so good at passing downs is that the Beavs possess a pair of lock-down corners. Jordan Poyer (6-0 190) is a consensus All-American after pulling in seven interceptions this season. He's a top pro prospect, potentially a first-round pick. And while Poyer gets all the pub, Rashaad Reynolds (5-11 186) would be the No. 1 corner for a lot of teams. He made Pac-12 Honorable Mention after finishing No. 20 nationally in passes defended, breaking up 13 passes and picking off three more. When Oregon State goes to the nickel, they bring in Sean Martin (6-0 186), who has 40 tackles and two picks on the year.

Ryan Murphy (6-3 213) is a specimen at free safety. He's athletic, and ranks among the team leaders in tackles with 62. He also has 2.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions. Strong safety Tyrequek Zimmerman (6-0 206) started his career at wide receiver. He has 57 tackles this year.

Punter Keith Kostol (6-3 189) averages 42.1 yards per punt and has placed 22 of his 55 punts inside the 20.

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