The Oregon State Beavers were surprisingly successful in 2012 and the talent of their defense was a major reason why. Mike Riley didn’t really know what he had on offense early on in the season (though it turned into quite a bit), so his defense was pivotal to getting the Beavers off to a quick start. Defensive end Scott Crichton led the charge with an elite pass rushing ability that should get him plenty of national attention in 2013.
The 6-foot-3, 263-pound defensive end has been a force of nature for Oregon State since hitting the field in 2011. Over his first two seasons, Crichton has 15 sacks, 32 tackles for loss, 118 total tackles and seven forced fumbles. Last season, he set career marks for sacks (nine) and tackles for loss (17.5) as he really started to emerge as one of the better pass rushers in the Pac 12.
In 2013, however, he will need to show he is a more complete defender. Crichton saw his total tackles drop dramatically in 2012 from 74 during his freshman season down to 44 as a sophomore. Part of that could have been Crichton focusing on his pass rush during the offseason, but he will need to become a more consistent presence on the defensive side in 2013, even if he isn’t rushing the quarterback.
Oregon State has a major crisis at defensive tackle heading into next fall. The position has virtually no depth and the leading contenders for the starting position are a pair of junior college transfers taking their first snaps at the FBS level. Behind them, there is little proven talent to lean on and the little reserve talent they did have has been leaving the program. The interior of the line is a question mark, so Crichton has to pick up some of the slack as they get the new guys up to speed.
That means he will need to be stronger on the edge of the line, holding outside contain and getting after running plays in addition to his responsibility as a pass rusher. If he can find a way to elevate his game and become a complete defensive lineman against the rush and pass, Crichton has the ability to have a very special season in 2013.