The overall theme of the defense for the Oregon State Beavers this season has been their lack of depth. They came out of fall camp thin at several key spots and only seemed to get thinner as injuries hit their defensive front. Still, Oregon State got bowl eligible before going on a five-game losing streak to close out the season so they’ll still get to head to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl to take on the Boise State Broncos. But in keeping true to the theme, they’ll do it without linebacker D.J. Alexander.
Alexander will not be available for the bowl game following surgery on his neck last week. The junior has had longtime issues with stingers stemming from a spine injury that often results in numbness in his fingers dating back to his time in high school. He missed Oregon State’s game against the USC Trojans this season (a 31-14 loss) due to a stinger after missing the first two games of the season with a knee injury. Coaches wanted him to have the procedure now so that he would have more time to recuperate and come back for 2014 at 100 percent.
Despite his injury issues in 2013, Alexander had a very strong season for a depleted OSU defense. In nine games, Alexander tallied 63 tackles this season (4th highest on the team) and his 7.0 tackles per game average with No. 2 on the Beavers this season. He added a pair of sacks, three tackles for loss, a pass breakup and a forced fumble to his stat sheet as well and really emerged as a leader on the defensive side of the ball. Having him back and at 100 percent in 2014 will go a long way in solidifying a Beaver defense that struggled to contain opposing offenses this season.
In his place, Oregon State will turn to young linebackers like redshirt freshmen Caleb Saulo and Cyril Noland-Lewis to take significant reps in Hawaii against Boise State. Both have stepped in several times during the season when Alexander and/or Michael Doctor have missed time. Saulo has recorded 30 tackles in nine games this season and Noland-Lewis has 18 tackles in seven games. Saulo got the push to the starting lineup against USC when Alexander was out and recorded nine tackles, so he’s likely to get the start again.
It’s a disappointing end to the 2013 season for Alexander but in the end will benefit the Oregon State team greatly as they attempt to bounce back next season. They’ll be short-handed in the bowl game but will be able to come back at full strength next fall.