Q&A: Oregon State assistant Mark Banker


Oregon State's defense had mixed results against TCU in a 30-21 defeat last weekend.

The Beavers muted the Horned Frogs passing game and picked off two passes. They also were pretty good on first and second down.

But the run defense yielded 278 yards, and the Horned Frogs were 11 of 17 on third down, which is back-breaking. TCU was particularly effective running quarterback Andy Dalton and attacking the perimeter of the Beavers defense.

With a bye week to review the film before playing host to Louisville on Sept. 18, it seemed like a good time to check in with defensive coordinator Mark Banker and hear his thoughts on how things went.

Tell me your general impressions after reviewing game tape from TCU.

Mark Banker: From an alignment side of it, communication side of it, the basic things, we were pretty good. We were pleased. Tackling, for a first game, was probably a B+. That has been something that has been a concern over the last few years, and we worked hard on that in the spring and in summer camp to remedy that. From the standpoint of the technical aspect of the game itself, we were really disappointed in our perimeter defense. If you would have told me they were going to run the ball outside on us, I would have been really happy and would have welcomed that. But that's where we broke down. We struggled to get into good leverage positions to turn the ball back into our pursuit. Our pursuit and our effort to the ball all night was excellent. That's a starting point for us and an emphasis for us. The guys really did a good job of executing their primary assignment and going to the ball. The other thing that was interesting in the game was we got them into 17 third-down situations. Over the course of the 2009 season, they probably only averaged maybe eight a game. Unfortunately, we didn't do a good job of getting off the field. Traditionally, situations of third-and-5 or more, you normally see the ball in the air. But they felt they could run the quarterback on the perimeter, as well as his ability to scramble. We fell short in that area. There were some good moments for us. The game was definitely winnable. There wasn't anything we felt, physically, athletically, that our team couldn't handle. We just didn't execute well enough to put our team in a winning situation. But the game is over, we can't do much about it now, other than we took some time during this bye week to make some corrections. We're looking forward to the Louisville game.

Any specific concerns about the run defense?

MB: The understand of everybody's responsibility. In some cases it didn't look like that. Like I said, in some cases we didn't get the positions and leverage we needed to. In some cases, they were able to beat the safeties to the corners, the outside linebacker in some fit positions, where they spill the ball. Those hurt us. It's not so much a concern as it is about correcting it and making sure we understand how it all fits together. Initially, we were concerned about their inside run game. But we feel good about our tackles, specifically Stephen Paea being such a force. At the same time, we're trying to replace a starting middle linebacker [David Pa'aluhi] who we thought we'd have for two more years. So this summer, we were really working on the interior of our defense. But we seemed to play well vs. their inside running game. The breakdowns occurred on the perimeter. It wasn't a physical thing; it was more about an understanding of how to get your fits on the outside perimeter game.

Who had a good game?

MB: A lot of players. You start up front. I think the three tackles -- Paea, Kevin Frahm and Brennan Olander -- consistently played well. I thought DE Gabe Miller played pretty well. DE Taylor Henry in his first full game starting. He did some nice things. I thought that OLB Dwight Roberson showed up and did some good things. He knows that had he made maybe four more plays and finished on some tackles by being in better position, he could have made an impact on the game. But he played pretty well. I thought the two safeties -- Lance Mitchell and Suaesi Tuimaunei -- played well. At the same time, Mitchell, just like Roberson, he had some situations where if he made four more plays in third down situations out on the perimeter, it changes third-down situations. He and Tuimaunei showed up with a lot of tackles, the reason being they ran outside quite a bit. Yet there were still some plays to be made.

How about the pass rush in general: It was a struggle last year. Did you see grounds for hope in 2010?

MB: Absolutely. When you play a game when the quarterback is like a running back and the ends have to be responsible to the end of the line of scrimmage on the QB, but at the same transfer to a pass rush, they did a good job. The ball was out quick, quite often. A couple of times the interior, Stephen Paea, got loose inside and chased Andy Dalton off his set-up point. Very encouraging from that standpoint.

Any personnel changes coming out of Week 1?

MB: We're still looking at the middle linebacker position, who starts the game [between Rueben Robinson and Tony Wilson]. The combination of plays they get. We've got to get deeper on our rotation on the outside. We know who our starters are, but we've got to continue to improve some of our younger players there. We had a position change at the end of summer camp when Cameron Collins, who started for us at safety last year, has moved to outside linebacker. If we thought he was one of the best 11 guys last year, we still feel he's one of the better players on our team. We've got to figure out a way to get him moving along at that position. From a starting standpoint, the only starter I can see at this point in time, possible change, might be inside. But that would just be who starts the game. The same guys will rotate that position. It looks like Kevin Unga, who's been our third [MLB] in camp so far, will push for more playing time.

What about Louisville: Give me a preview of the Cardinals, who lost 23-16 to Kentucky in their opener.

MB: They operate under center and out of the gun. Their base run plays are the zone, the stretch and the counter. They roll with two backs who are a little different in stature. One guy is a 6-1 kid who seems to be 215 pounds and is a very strong runner. He also had a breakaway run and has some good speed. They have another guy who looks to be more of an outside guy. He's a big-time cut-back runner. They are going to possess the ball. I thought the QB would be more of a runner -- like TCU -- we thought we'd see more read-zone option concepts. We saw some from a structure standpoint when they operate out of the gun with an off-set back, but the QB only ran with the ball one time with a designed play. But we still have to be cognizant of that. In the passing game, because of their run game, they are going to use play-action passes, where it's protection first, then pass. They are not a team that sends five people out into the route. They haven't shown empty a lot either. More possession type passes. They took a couple of shots downfield last week, just trying to get positive plays. The drop-back pass game only appeared on obvious passing downs -- third down or second and long. It seems like they are structured to try to have positive plays and then turn things over to their defense to manage the game.