As the Oregon State Beavers open fall camp, head coach Mike Riley is excited about the possibilities of this team. One thing he isn’t overly optimistic about, however, is the status of his defensive line. Already considered a major question mark this summer, the defensive line is now a serious concern in fall camp. Will the Beavers find some answers before kicking off the season August 31?
Oregon State knew they were in for a rough offseason in the trenches following the 2012 season when starters Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo, along with their backups, moved on from the program. Without any depth built up behind them, Riley went the junior college route to bolster his ranks, signing five JC transfers for his defensive front. As fall camp opens, however, a majority of those reinforcements aren’t on campus yet.
Three of those junior college transfers, defensive tackle Kyle Peko and defensive ends Charlie Tuaau and Lyndon Tulimasealii, have not qualified academically yet and are not currently in practice. Riley was counting on Tulimasealii to be out but was optimistic that Peko and Tuaau would have qualified by now but is left with none of them on campus and no idea when, or if, they’ll be able to join the team.
“They’re out there in that Never Neverland and we don’t know for sure. We’re hoping for the best but … it’s out of our control. Things are going through the wires right now: grades transferring, transcript-gathering. As for how fast it can happen, we hope to know (Monday) afternoon, but I doubt it.”
Without those reinforcements, it leaves fellow JC transfers Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau as the starting defensive tackles with very little behind them. That makes developing some depth on the defensive line a major priority for the Beavers that they must address quickly. Adding urgency to the matter, Hautau had to be carted off the field on the first day of practice with an apparent leg injury after missing most of the spring with a broken hand. If he can’t stay on the field, having a capable backup becomes even more important.
If the extra help doesn’t show up, Oregon State has a contingency plan to rotate in some veteran backups who have yet to step up into major roles on the defense. Senior Mana Rosa played in 11 games last season while Riley raved about Brandon Bennett-Jackson before fall camp opened. Senior John Braun has moved from defensive end to defensive tackle to add some support and has experience playing both positions in the past.
Also helping matter is the elite talent the Beavers have at defensive end with Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn. The pair could be All-American candidates when it’s all said and done this season and are embracing their role as leaders and mentors to the rest of the defensive line. They may have to play their best football right out of the gate to cover up some mistakes as they get the interior line sorted out, but have the talent to make that work.
One way or the other, Oregon State is confident they will be able to find answer to the huge question marks on their defensive line. Will it be from the reinforcements out of the JC ranks or will longtime backups step up into featured roles?