Mike Riley has built a long and successful career with the Oregon State Beavers and he has done it his way. It’s not very often that Riley will adopt a radical new way of doing things because his way has worked for over a decade now in the Pac 12. But that isn’t to say the Beavers’ head coach is inflexible. With Oregon State facing a depth crisis at defensive tackle, Riley could employ more three-man defensive fronts in 2013.
That would be a pretty big departure from the 4-3 front that Riley has run almost exclusively with Oregon State. For years now, Riley has built his defense with stout defensive tackles to clog up the middle with athletic ends to create pressure off the edge and allowing the linebackers to roam free to make plays on the football. This year, however, Riley won’t be able to do that as the Beavers are paper-thin in the defensive interior.
Riley will find making the move to using more 3-4 or 3-3-5 defensive alignments easier thanks not only to his lack of options at defensive tackle, but also his abundance of options at linebacker. Last season, the linebacker position lacked any real depth and was forced to run with a thin crew, even switching to a nickel package where they removed the middle linebacker at times. That won’t be the case in 2013 as Riley will have a healthy stable of linebackers to choose from, giving him greater flexibility to put a fourth LB on the field.
During spring the team experimented with some three-man fronts, particularly once the injuries started to mount. It isn’t a look that Riley is used to with Oregon State, but it’s a change that could make the Beavers’ defense even better next fall.