The Oregon State Beavers suffered through a major free-fall in the second half of the 2013 season thanks in part to a defense that could not come up with stops when they needed to. A major reason for their struggles was the absence of their leader at middle linebacker, Michael Doctor, who missed all but two games last year with a serious ankle injury. With Doctor back in the middle for 2014, the Beavers’ D should see a significant improvement this season.
Doctor was able to play in just a pair of games in 2013 before undergoing surgery on his ankle which cost him the entire season. In those two games, he recorded 13 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks, showing the kind of impact he could have had if he had been able to stay on the field. Back in 2012, Doctor led the team in tackles as he emerged as a defensive leader, recording 83 tackles with 11 tackles for loss, four pass break-ups, and an interception.
Without Doctor in the lineup, the Oregon State defense struggled, particularly against the run. They finished No. 9 in the Pac-12 in total defense, allowing 436.6 yards per game in 2013 and they gave up an average of 5.1 yards per carry to their opponents, the worst mark in the entire conference. That porous defense prevented Oregon State from maintaining any momentum from their high-powered offense or their impressive 6-1 start to the season as they limped to a 7-6 record in 2013.
With Doctor back and 100 percent healthy, the Beavers should see a healthy boost to their defensive toughness in 2014. While he won’t be enough to turn things around completely by himself this fall, Doctor’s leadership and experience in the middle of the defense should raise everyone’s level of play and help Oregon State avoid another late-season swoon in 2014.