Pac-12: Taylor Henry
Although coach Steve Sarkisian said Tuesday an MRI on Price's left knee revealed no structural damage, Price mostly sat out Tuesday's practice and walked with a noticable limp, according to reporters on hand.
If Price can't go, Nick Montana will get his first career start. Freshmen Derrick Brown and walk-on Thomas Vincent took the snaps with the second team.
Price hurt his knee in the loss at USC and Montana, son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, came off the bench and completed 9 of 15 passes for 73 yards with a touchdown.
The big test for Price will be Wednesday. If he shows significant improvement during today's practice, the chances he'll start go up significantly. He's already shown repeatedly this year that he can manage pain.
Whoever plays quarterback for the Huskies, he will be facing a struggling defense that is now down another starter, as Beavers defensive end Taylor Henry quit the team this week. Henry had three sacks this year. He will be replaced by true freshman Dylan Wynn, meaning both Beavers defensive ends will be freshman -- Scott Crichton is the other.
Of course, if Montana gets the call, Sarkisian likely will lean on running back Chris Polk. The Beavers rank 11th in the conference in run defense, giving up 183.7 yards per game.
After previously looking at top returning passers, rushers, tacklers, receivers and ball hawks -- interceptions -- we move on to the returning players with the most sacks.
Four of the top-five sackmen are returning in 2011, and three of them were sophomores or younger last fall. So there should be some pretty good pressure this fall.
Here's the list:
1. Mychal Kendricks, Sr., LB, California (8.5 sacks): Kendricks ranked second in the conference in sacks last fall, but he may get fewer in 2011 because he's moving from outside to inside linebacker in the Bears' 3-4 scheme.
2. Shayne Skov, Jr., LB, Stanford (7.5): Of course, maybe playing inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme doesn't kill sack numbers -- see Skov, who piled up this total in just 11 games. Skov and Kendricks are in the mix for first-team All-Pac-12 as well as All-American honors.
3. Chase Thomas, Jr., OLB, Stanford (7.5): Thomas is an underrated player who figures to get more attention this year. He and Skov are big reasons the Cardinal led the conference with 36 sacks in 2010.
4. Josh Hartigan, Sr., DE, Colorado (7.0): As a former inside linebacker, he's undersized -- 6-foot-1, 215 pounds -- but he's an agile pass-rush specialist. Of his 24 tackles in 2010, seven were sacks. Note: Colorado would have had a second player on this list -- junior Forrest West, who had 5.5 sacks last year -- but he left the team.
5. Junior Onyeali, So, DE, Arizona State (6.5): At 5-11, 233, he's not the most intimidating presence on the edge, but if the QB ends up on his rear end, it doesn't matter how tall you are. The conference's defensive freshman of the year looks to build on a huge debut season.
6. Justin Washington, So., DT, Arizona (6.0): Likely the player who finished second to Onyeali in the defensive freshman of the year voting. Washington started fast and then got banged-up. When healthy, he looked like a budding star inside.
7. Travis Long, Jr., DE, Washington State (5.0): The Cougars finished tied for last in the conference in sacks with just 23 (tied with, surprisingly, Arizona State). Long's numbers will go up if the other members of the Cougs' front four garner more respect in 2011.
Onyeali, Washington and Long each sat out spring with injuries but are expected to be good-to-go this fall.
Whom to watch for in 2011: Arizona DE C.J. Parish, ASU DE James Brooks, Cal DE Trevor Guyton, Oregon DE Dion Jordan, Oregon State DE Taylor Henry, UCLA DE Datone Jones, USC DE Nick Perry, Utah DE Joe Kruger, Washington DE/OLB Josh Shirley and Washington State DE Ian Knight.
1. How will Katz react when the lights go on at Cowboys Stadium? Oregon State's Ryan Katz has done everything well since he quickly took control of the quarterback job during spring practices. He's got the arm, head and athletic ability to become an All-Conference QB. But no one really knows how he will react to the big-stage pressure of his first career start. Many great QBs played like a squirrel darting across a highway in their first start. Others did just fine.
2. Time for Locker to step up: It's no longer about Jake Locker's extraordinary potential, which has NFL scouts salivating. Now it's about Locker performing. It's about him becoming the QB he is projected to be but hasn't yet been. That means completing 60-65 percent of his passes with few mistakes and converting big play after big play with both his arm and his feet. The visions of Locker now need to match the reality of him. Otherwise, a season of great hope for the Huskies won't get out of the starting gate.
3. Is Prince ready? what about his line? UCLA QB Kevin Prince has missed almost all of fall camp with a back problem. Sure, he's a returning starter, but the Bruins are adopting -- at least parts of -- a new "pistol" offense, which he inconsistently ran during the spring. You would think Prince, at the very least, will be a bit rusty at Kansas State. Also, it won't help much that the line he played behind in the spring doesn't look much like the makeshift unit that will be protecting him Saturday.
4. USC can make a statement: Everybody is curious how motivated the Trojans will be in 2010 when they aren't eligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions. If they deliver an angry beatdown at Hawaii, some of that curiosity will be answered. And it wouldn't hurt Lane Kiffin for his squad to be sharp in his first game as head coach.
5. Oregon QB Darron Thomas needs to get his starters legs under him: Oregon is going to whip New Mexico, no matter how Thomas does in his first start at quarterback. But Thomas needs to push through those inevitable first-game jitters and find a comfort level on the big stage. Because next weekend he's going to be playing at Tennessee in front of 105,000 folks who will be slightly less supportive than the crowd Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
6. Can Oregon State get pressure on TCU QB Andy Dalton? While much of the pre-game attention with the Beavers showdown with TCU is focused on how Katz will react to the Horned Frogs' relentless blitzes, the Beavers own pass rush is almost as big a question. Recall that last year Oregon State, typically an attacking defense, struggled to get much pressure on opposing QBs, registering just 17 sacks, which ranked ninth in the conference and was just four more than poor ole Washington State. The hope is tackle Stephen Paea will be such a distraction inside that ends Gabe Miller and Taylor Henry will be able to beat one-on-one blocks with their athletic ability. But if the Beavers can't get to the underrated Dalton, it could be a long evening.
7. Are Arizona's three new LBs still thinking too much? The chatter started in spring and lasted through much of fall camp: The Wildcats new linebackers were thinking too much and therefore not playing with the right amount of aggressiveness. And then when they attacked, they often made the wrong fit or ended up in the wrong place. Toledo plays well at home and runs a productive spread offense. They will challenge Derek Earls, Jake Fischer and Paul Vassallo, who are each making their first career start. The Rockets will try to confuse them and get them out of position. There's inevitably going to be a growth process for the new LBs. The question is how slowly that process will progress.
8. How much better is Washington State? Few folks believe the Cougars are going to win many games this season, but there are good reasons for cautious optimism, starting with a more experienced -- and healthier -- lineup. It's certainly not helpful, however, to open at Oklahoma State, even if the Cowboys are rebuilding. Still, if the Cougs make this one competitive heading into the second half, they likely will have already exceeded some expectations. The key here is for WSU to walk away from Stillwater thinking, "We can win some games this year." Conversely, a blowout loss could prove catastrophic to the program's fragile confidence.
9. Will anyone produce a Heisman moment? Locker at BYU? Jacquizz Rodgers versus TCU in his home state? Will Arizona's Nick Foles or USC's Matt Barkley roll up big numbers? There are many potential Heisman Trophy candidates in the conference in 2010. Will any make a statement with a SportsCenter performance in week one?
10. Cal, Stanford and Arizona State just need to avoid injuries, not embarrass themselves: All three take on FCS foes -- UC Davis, Sacramento State and Portland State, respectively -- which means they are going to win easily (or become national laughingstocks). The key thing is to start fast and then get the starters safely to the bench.
Even the two teams that fall in the "We'll see" category here don't lack for talent or experience. They just have obvious questions heading into preseason camp.
So how do things stack up?
- Arizona: The Wildcats were in great shape at the spot last year with the same two players, though Ricky Elmore eclipsed Brooks Reed when he recorded 10.5 sacks while Reed was hurt (ankle) much of the season. Word on the street is Reed has been a maniac in the weight room this offseason. Solid depth here, too.
- USC: Two players worth buying stock in: Armond Armstead and Nick Perry. Perry had eight sacks as a backup in 2009 and Armstead was dominant this spring. Transfer of Malik Jackson hurts depth.
- Oregon: Kenny Rowe led the Pac-10 with 11.5 sacks in 2009, while Dion Jordan was perhaps the breakout player of the Ducks' spring practices.
- California: Cameron Jordan has been good, but he has a chance to be great: Is 2010 his year? Trevor Guyton is the leader to replace first-round draft pick Tyson Alualu, while Deandre Coleman and Ernest Owusu provide high-quality depth.
- UCLA: Datone Jones had a great spring, while Keenan Graham looks like the favorite to start on the opposite side. Solid depth with Damien Holmes, Iuta Tepa and touted incoming freshman Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
- Oregon State: The Beavers struggled to rush the passer in 2009 and returning starter Matt LaGrone quit, but Gabe Miller is a talented athlete who came on late and had a good spring. Sophomore Taylor Henry is No.1 on the other side.
- Arizona State: The Sun Devils must replace four-year star Dexter Davis. James Brooks and Greg Smith are the likely starters. Solid depth here but no standouts.
- Washington State: The Cougars are sneaky good with sophomore Travis Long and senior Kevin Kooyman.
- Stanford: The Cardinal is hard to rate because they are switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4, so Thomas Keiser and Chase Thomas, returning starters at end, are now outside linebackers and don't qualify. Meanwhile, Matt Masifilo and Brian Bulcke are experienced tackles but are new to end.
- Washington: This is as pure of a "we'll see" as you can get. Four-year starter Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is off to the NFL and potential starter Andru Pulu got kicked off the team. If Everrette Thompson and Kalani Aldrich are healthy and ready to play 12 games, the Huskies are solid. Maybe even better than solid. If not, things are iffy.
Therefore, it seems like a reasonable moment to look back and review some recruiting hits and misses. (And, yes, we did this last summer with the 2006 class, which you can review here -- Ducks fans should get a kick out of it).
As for the 2007 rankings, USC ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. Oregon, at No. 23, was the only other Pac-10 team in the Scouts Inc., top-25.
Scout.com ranked USC No. 2 in the nation, Oregon ninth, and California 12th. The rest of the Pac-10 went, in order, Washington (29th in nation), UCLA (36th), Arizona State (38), Oregon State (40), Stanford (43), Arizona (49) and Washington State (54).
Here's an overview.
ESPNU top 150 players: 2 (DE Apaiata Tuihalamaka, TE Rob Gronkowski)
How many are expected to start in 2010: Four (RB Nic Grigsby, CB Trevin Wade, WR William Wright, K Alex Zendejas)
Misses: Tuihalamaka, QB Bryson Beirne,
Verdict: Obviously, the biggest catch of this class, Gronkowski, is gone. Otherwise, a lot of these guys qualify for the "where are they now?" file.
ESPNU top 150 players: 0.
How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (C Garth Gerhart, WR Kerry Taylor, CB Omar Bolden, DE James Brooks, OG Matt Hustad)
Misses: OL Po'u Palelei, LB Oliver Aaron
Verdict: This is a decent class, particularly when you factor in the contribution of the since-departed JC signees, such as LB Morris Wooten and DE Luis Vasquez. And there are several non-starters who will contribute this year.
ESPNU top 150 players: 0
How many are expected to start in 2010: 10 (OT Matt Summers-Gavin, P Bryan Anger, LB D.J. Holt, WR Alex Lagemann, OT Mitchell Schwartz, S Sean Cattouse, S Chris Conte, OG Justin Cheadle, DE Cameron Jordan, RB Shane Vereen).
Misses: QB Brock Mansion, CB D.J. Campbell
Verdict: Obviously, ESPN.com's Scouts Inc., missed with its evaluation of this solid recruiting class, particularly when you consider RB Jahvid Best, WR Nyan Boateng and LB Devin Bishop were significant contributors before their tenures were done. Jordan and Vereen obviously were well underrated. And there were 21 running backs better than Best?
ESPNU top 150 players: 1 (DE Kenny Rowe)
How many are expected to start in 2010: 10 (Rowe, WR D.J. Davis, LB Casey Matthews, CB Talmadge Jackson, OG Carson York, TE David Paulson, OG Mark Asper, WR Jeff Maehl, S Eddie Pleasant, DE Terrell Turner).
Misses: DT Myles Wade, S Malachi Lewis
Verdict: When you toss in DE Will Tukuafu, WR Aaron Pflugrad (a starter who transferred to Arizona State) and WR Terence Scott, this is a good, if not great, class. Three or four of these guys should be All-Conference players.
ESPNU top 150 players: 0
How many are expected to start in 2010: Eight (HB Joe Halahuni, S Cameron Collins, WR Darrell Catchings, CB Brandon Hardin, FB Will Darkins, DE Taylor Henry, LB Keith Pankey, WR James Rodgers)
Misses: CB David Ross, RB Reggie Dunn
Verdict: We don't have the time to go back and retrace the maneuvers that are part of managing a 35-man recruiting class (each class can only include a maximum of 25 members, but there are lots of ways to fudge numbers). Obviously, there are the Beavers typical crew of so-called diamonds in the rough -- hello, James Rodgers -- but here's a guess that coach Mike Riley winces over some of these names. Certainly not a lot of production from the six JC guys.
ESPNU top 150 players: 0.
How many are expected to start in 2010: Six (P David Green, CB Corey Gatewood, LB/FB Owen Marecic, TE Coby Fleenor, DE Thomas Keiser, DE Matt Masifilo)
Misses: QB L. D. Crow, S Sean Wiser
Verdict: An interesting class considering that six of the eight lowest rated players are on the Cardinal's preseason two-deep depth chart, including three starters. In terms of skill positions -- see the two QBs -- this class doesn't measure up.
ESPNU top 150 players: 2 (QB Chris Forcier, RB Raymond Carter)
How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (LB Akeem Ayers, LB Glenn Love, LB Steve Sloan, DT Nate Chandler, OT Mike Harris)
Misses: Forcier, Carter
Verdict: This is a very small but highly productive class collected by former coach Karl Dorrell -- note that it includes DT Brian Price, who bolted early for the NFL. The only busts were the two highest rated players, Forcier and Carter, and JC LB Mike Schmitt. The other eight members are either on the two-deep or, in Price's case, already in the NFL.
ESPNU top 150 players: 10 (RB Joe McKnight, LB Chris Galippo, RB Marc Tyler, S Marshall Jones, DE Everson Griffen, QB Aaron Corp, WR Ronald Johnson, OT Martin Coleman, DT DaJohn Harris, C Kris O'Dowd)
How many are expected to start in 2010: Four (LB Chris Galippo, WR Ronald Johnson, C Kristofer O'Dowd, LB Malcolm Smith)
Misses: S Marshall Jones, OT Martin Coleman
Verdict: Obviously, this class, ranked No. 1 in the nation, was overrated, even when you factor in that McKnight, Griffen and Damian Williams already are in the NFL, and NT Christian Tupou would be a second-year starter if he didn't blow out his knee this spring. Lots of guys who never contributed or left the program.
ESPNU top 150 players: 0
How many are expected to start in 2010: Eight (WR Devin Aguilar, LB Alvin Logan, LB Cort Dennison, SS Nate Williams, LB Mason Foster, CB Quinton Richardson, DE Kalani Aldrich, K Erik Folk)
Misses: DE Emeka Iweka, DT Nick Wood
Verdict: You read the names of the seven highest-rated players in this class and you have one reaction: Terrible. But then you see six defensive starters among the lower rated guys. Still, the Huskies defense is a huge question mark. How it performs this year will tell you how this class should be rated.
ESPNU top 150 players: 0
How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (CB Aire Justin, WR Daniel Blackledge, C Andrew Roxas, OG B.J. Guerra, SS Chima Nwachukwu)
Misses: WR Deon Ford
Verdict: Not much should be expected from Bill Doba's final recruiting class, and this one doesn't deliver much sizzle. A couple of solid hits, though, including a couple of departed JC transfers.
2009 overall record: 8-5
2009 conference record: 6-3 (tied for second)
Offense: 8, Defense: 7, punter/kicker: 2
Top returners: RB Jacquizz Rodgers, WR James Rodgers, C Alex Linnenkohl, DT Stephen Paea, DE Gabe Miller, LB Dwight Roberson, CB James Dockery
Key losses: QB Sean Canfield, LB Keaton Kristick, LB David Pa'aluhi, DE Matt LaGrone
2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)
Rushing: Jacquizz Rodgers* (1,440)
Passing: Sean Canfield (3,271)
Receiving: James Rodgers* (1,034)
Tackles: Keaton Kristick (95)
Sacks: Stephen Paea*, Gabe Miller* (3)
Interceptions: Lance Mitchell* (3)
1. Cool Katz: Sophomore Ryan Katz entered the spring as the favorite to win the quarterback job and he didn't disappoint. He has a big arm and good mobility. All he is missing is experience. He'll enter fall camp as the clear leader, while Peter Lalich and Cody Vaz compete for the backup job.
2. There are plenty of offensive weapons: Everything starts with the Rodgers brothers, running back Jacquizz and receiver James, but it doesn't end there. Receivers Markus Wheaton and Jordan Bishop and tight end/H-Back Joe Halahuni will give Katz plenty of options when he distributes the football.
3. Solid in the secondary: The Beavers will be experienced -- not to mention big -- in the secondary, with three starters back from 2009 and all four first-teamers measuring over 6-feet. James Dockery and 6-foot-2, 219-pound Brandon Hardin are the corners, while Lance Mitchell, 230-pound Cameron Collins and Suaesi Tuimaunei have combined for 29 starts at safety.
1. Front seven issues: Taylor Henry stepped up at defensive end after Matt LaGrone quit the team, but what's unclear is if he can hold off touted JC transfer Dominic Glover as the starter. Things also are fluid at linebacker. Will Keith Pankey be 100 percent by fall camp after missing spring with a torn Achilles tendon? Will Tony Wilson or Rueben Robinson step in at middle linebacker?
2. How will the offensive line shake out? Starters Grant Johnson and Michael Philipp missed spring with injuries, which forced line coach Mike Cavanaugh to do some mixing and matching. The good news was the re-emergence of tackle Wilder McAndrews, who almost quit due to persistent wrist problem. It's possible that McAndrews could take over at left tackle and Philipp could move inside to guard. Then Johnson and Burke Ellis could compete at the other guard.
3. Who is Katz’s backup? The story of spring might have been Katz's impressive effort, but Vaz also deserves note. His rise is more about how well he played than Lalich not producing. Considering how often a backup quarterback is needed, this will be an interesting competition to follow during fall camp.
FB Taimi Tutogi: The sophomore can play fullback, tailback or tight end. At 6-foot-2, 258 pounds, he packs a punch.
DT Sione Tuihalamaka: The redshirt freshman appears to be a potential starter inside, replacing Earl Mitchell.
OT Evan Finkenberg: The redshirt freshman is likely to start at one tackle spot for the Sun Devils.
DE Greg Smith: The true sophomore backed up Dexter Davis last fall. Word is he's a high-motor guy.
RB Isi Sofele: The sophomore isn't big but he's got the quickness to be a playmaker and counterpoint to starter Shane Vereen.
NT Kendrick Payne: The sophomore had a great spring and may unseat Derrick Hill as the starter.
WR Justin Hoffman: The sophomore not only caught everything thrown his way, he also is a tenacious blocker on the outside.
DE Dion Jordan: The sophomore switched sides of the ball from tight end and looks like a potential star.
RB Jordan Jenkins: The versatile sophomore could push Ryan McCants -- who also had a good spring -- for touches behind Jacquizz Rodgers this fall
DE Taylor Henry: The Beavers needed the sophomore to step up after Matt LaGrone quit the team. He did. Looks like a potentially dangerous pass rusher.
TE Levine Toilolo: The 6-foot-8, 244-pound redshirt freshman has an imposing frame as well as good speed. Made a lot of plays this spring.
LB Shayne Skov: The sophomore became a starter last year when Clinton Snyder blew out his knee. Don't be surprised if he earns All-Conference honors.
WR Randall Carroll: The true sophomore looked more like a receiver with great speed than a speed guy playing receiver this spring.
DT Nate Chandler: The junior moved from tight and immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup.
RB Dillon Baxter: The early-entry true freshman made more spectacular plays this spring than any other USC player.
SS Jawanza Starling: The sophomore was a standout in the rebuilding secondary, though he'll face a challenge from Drew McAllister in the fall.
RB Deontae Cooper: Cooper and fellow true freshman Jesse Callier made the most of their early entries, playing well enough to look like contributors next fall
FS Will Shamburger: The redshirt freshman was a standout from start to finish, and finished spring practices as the starter ahead of sophomore Nate Felner.
OT Wade Jacobson: The 6-foot-6, 307-pound JC transfer was a standout this spring and figures to start at one of the tackle spots.
DT Brandon Rankin: The touted JC transfer needs to gain a few pound in order to play inside but he looked like a dynamic presence much of spring.
Sophomore end Taylor Henry, who's trying to step in for the departed Matt LaGrone, collected four sacks to pace the defense.
Running back Jacquizz Rodgers and defensive tackle Stephen Paea didn't play -- and Paea's absence made Henry's effort even more impressive. The O-line couldn't claim to be distracted by a force inside.
Quarterback Ryan Katz was hot and cold, completing 9 of 20 passes for 123 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The TD pass went for 14 yards to Markus Wheaton, capping a seven-play, 67-yard drive to start the scrimmage.
The defense, however, was mostly in control thereafter, stopping the offense on three downs four consecutive times at one point. The offense finished with six turnovers.
While Katz was inconsistent, he posted a strong spring overall and is a clear No. 1 on the depth chart. The competition at the position going forward might be between Cody Vaz and Peter Lalich for the No. 2 job, though neither was sharp on Saturday. Vaz completed 8-of-13 for 60 yards in the scrimmage, while Lalich was 6-of-12 for 47 yards. Jack Lomax was impressive late, tossing three touchdown passes, all to Mitch Singler, including a 66-yard strike.
A positive on offense was the play of the backup running backs; Rodgers can't carry the ball every time, after all. Sophomore Jordan Jenkins rushed for 112 yards on 26 carries, while junior Ryan McCants had 74 yards on 24 attempts.
- More on Arizona's football series with the Roadrunners. Beep beep.
- Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden is starting to fulfill his potential.
- This California receiver is getting "Loggy" -- and that might lead to a music career. The Bears have hit the home stretch of spring practices: Are there any answers? The new defensive coordinator is well-traveled.
- Former Oregon football coach -- and athletic director -- Mike Bellotti mostly holds his tongue as he leaves for ESPN. But there is plenty to read between the lines. LaMichael James speaks about his bad moment.
- Checking in with Oregon State offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf on the quarterback competition. The Beavers lose one of their biggest backers. Taylor Henry tries to fill a void at defensive end.
- Ryan Whalen may be Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck's go-to guy. The spring game will be in San Francisco.
- UCLA's Joseph Fauria is a tight end and a comedian. The Bruins F-back isn't one sort of player.
- Former USC running back Reggie Bush will get his day in court, something he -- and probably USC -- never wanted. Lane Kiffin is not afraid to shake things up.
- Washington running back Chris Polk is sitting out spring but will be ready in the fall. Former Huskies receiver Reggie Williams is getting another chance, perhaps his last one, in the NFL.
- A linebacker steps up for Washington State. Ryan Leaf comes clean in a surprisingly moving and articulate way.
- While the big story is the quarterback competition between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich -- Katz is clearly ahead -- what I came away with was the feeling the Beavers are well-stocked at quarterback. Both Katz and Lalich look the part and can make plays. Redshirt freshman Cody Vaz also was impressive.
- Vaz hooked up with split end Darrell Catchings on what might have been the play of the afternoon. Catchings hauled in a deep toss from Vaz under tight coverage by trapping it against his helmet as he fell out of bounds. "Good coverage, good catch," said coach Mike Riley.
- Defensive tackle Stephen Paea is one thick dude. He played at around 285 last year and said he's around 310 now -- and it looks like all the new weight is muscle. It's well-distributed on his 6-foot-1 frame and he's far from top-heavy. His lower body is as impressive as his upper.
- Receiver James Rodgers and cornerback James Dockery had a couple of nice one-on-one battles, with the 6-foot-1 Dockery holding his own vs. the powerful, super-quick, 5-foot-7 Rodgers.
- Brandon Hardin has to be the biggest starting cornerback in the Pac-10. He's a linebacker-like 6-foot-2, 219 pounds. In fact, he and No. 1 safety Cameron Collins, who is 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, have to be the biggest secondary pair in the conference.
- The move of Kevin Frahm from defensive end to tackle seems like a good call. While he's undersized at 267 pounds, he'll be more effective as a quick tackle in the Beavers gap-cancellation scheme than as an end who struggled to disengage blockers against the run and was perhaps a step slow on the perimeter.
- The loss of middle linebacker David Pa'aluhi and end Matt LaGrone -- both quit for personal reasons -- were substantial blows to the defense, but LaGrone's departure might hurt worse. Sophomore Tony Wilson is a capable replacement at linebacker, but it remains to be seen whether sophomore pass-rushing specialist Taylor Henry can be an every-down end. The coaches are crossing their fingers that junior college transfer Dominic Glover -- a former Oregon player -- will be able to step in and help immediately.
- On the plus side, everybody seems to feel that DE Gabe Miller is headed toward a potential All-Conference sort of season.
- It's obvious who is the leader of the offensive line: center Alex Linnenkohl. The three-year starter seems to spend almost all of his downtime during drills giving tips to younger players.
- Incoming freshman quarterback Sean Mannion watched practice with his dad, John, who has been hired as Silverton (Ore.) High School's new head football coach.
The Beavers started spring practices Monday.
LaGrone, a former Nevada basketball player, started four of Oregon State's final five games in 2009 and was listed No. 1 on the spring depth chart ahead of sophomore Taylor Henry, redshirt freshman John Braun and injured senior Mitchel Hunt.
According to The Oregonian, LaGrone was struggling with being separated from his family -- a wife and two daughters -- who live in Reno.
LaGrone is the second projected starter to leave the team. Middle linebacker David Pa'aluhi also left the Beavers to reportedly join the military. The Beavers also lost receiver Casey Kjos (injuries). Linebacker Keith Pankey will miss spring with a torn Achilles.
"It does (hurt the team), because [LaGrone] had made a lot of progress and played a lot,'' Beavers coach Mike Riley told The Oregonian. "I think we've got good depth. We've got young guys coming up who I think will be good players but it's a tough loss. ... it's just like Pa'aluhi. You've got a guy almost at the stage to get his best performance, and then he's gone.
DeLawrence Grant and LaDairus Jackson begat Bill Swancutt, who begat Jeff Van Orsow, who begat Dorian Smith, who begat Victor Butler and Slade Norris, who begat... we'll see.
There's been a lot of productive begetting for Oregon State at defensive end. The Beavers have recorded 130 sacks over the past three seasons, most of which have come from ends adept at defeating blocks and smacking quarterbacks.
That's why recent reports from preseason camp of defensive domination -- and defensive ends roaring -- suggests the position will be in good hands this fall with new starters Ben Terry, a senior, and sophomore Kevin Frahm.
Still, Frahm, as exuberant a player as you'll see, admitted the Beavers legacy at the position creates pressure.
"Totally -- I think anybody who has to come in and replace somebody who ended up going on to the NFL and was as successful as Vic and Slade were would feel pressure," Frahm said. "But I guess I try not to think about it. I just focus on doing my job. Let the chips fall as they may."
Defensive coordinator Mark Banker compared Frahm to Van Orsow, a player who wasn't spectacular at anything but was good at everything. He finished his career 29.5 tackles for a loss, which ranks eighth on the Beavers all-time list.
"I kind of saw the same style in Jeff when I was a true freshman," Frahm said. "I think that comparison is a big credit to all the teaching and tips I got from Jeff. Without all of that, I wouldn't be the player I am today."
While powerful Frahm and the speedy Terry, a converted tight end, are the starters, Gabe Miller, Matt LaGrone and Taylor Henry all could see playing time.
The Beavers entered spring practices with just three returning starters on defense. That seemed like a big concern, but the situation was exactly the same in 2008, when the Beavers so-called rebuilding defense finished ranked 23rd in the nation.
So is 2009 a rebuilding year with two new defensive ends?
"I kind of feel like that same question has been coming up every single season since I've been here," Frahm said. "Last season, no body thought Vic and Slade could step up and replace Jeff and Dorian, but they did."
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Getting five players drafted last spring sort of hurt the image of Mark Banker's defense at Oregon State.
These Beavers aren't scrappy overachievers any longer. They're getting paid.
Fact is, Banker's defense has been one of the most consistently good units in the Pac-10 since he became coordinator in 2003.
|Randy Litzinger/Icon SMI|
|Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker's unit returns just three starters.|
But the Beavers welcome back just three starters and have to replace their entire secondary.
Of course, as Oregon State fans are quick to note, last year the Beavers also welcomed back just three starters, and none from their front-seven.
Still, the last time the Beavers defense struggled was 2005 when a pair of freshmen corners got eaten alive.
Those culprits, Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes, by the way, were two of those five drafted players.
So, just as camp gets started, we figured we'd check in and see what's up with Banker and his crew of "Gap Cancellers."
I'm sure I'm going to refer to your "gap cancellation scheme" about 50 times this season. Please, explain the basics of your defense?
Mark Banker: Most defenses are either contain defenses or they are spill defenses. We are a spill defense, meaning what we would prefer to do take away the middle the field -- both in the pass game and run game -- and we want teams to work outside on the perimeter. One reasons is we are able to use our speed to run things down as the opponent runs out of room to the outside. A lot of that starts up front. We teach our defensive line an attacking style of play. We're getting vertical off the ball and the most important thing they can do is look at the inside portion of their gap -- usually referred to a hip -- and if that hip disappears inside, they close to it to make sure there's no daylight inside so the ball bounces to the outside. It allows our linebackers to be, rather than just downhill inside, where they give away 100 pounds per man, it gives our guys a chance to go where that thing gets spilled. We create basically an alley by our secondary showing up and leveraging the ball and the linebackers are able to run through that alley to make the play.
You guys put a lot of pressure on you cornerbacks to be able to cover man-on-man: How is that going to work with a pair of new starters?
MB: Athletically we like how the (less experienced) players in our secondary have developed. (Senior cornerback) Tim Clark has played in game situations since as early as his sophomore year. In fact, during Timmy's sophomore year, (former starting cornerback) Keenan Lewis got hurt and he had to come in against Cal, and they had a guy named DeSean Jackson. I think (Jackson) had seven yards on the day [actually one reception for eight yards]. One big expectations is Timmy can become an every-down type of player and we only have to deal with the other side when it comes to starting. But you know James Dockery, who we lost last year (to injury) and we got back for the spring, continues to grow. He's very much a competitor. Brandon Hardin is another -- a big kid who has good size and strength and has every capability to be that guy as well. His big thing, just like any of the corners, is an understanding of how to play specific techniques by down-and-distance and field position. That has eluded him at times. But has shown great promise. Those are two guys who came to mind. Patrick Henderson is a senior and sort of a journeyman. He saw some time last year in some bit roles. Unlike 2005, this season we have some players, with some depth who might lack the game experience but at least they've been in the program and know what is expected.
You lost eight guys from last year's unit: Who's going to be the toughest to replace?
MB: That's a loaded question because out of the seven players who were drafted, (five) were starters on defense. The corners were valuable because of their experience. A guy like (safety) Al Afalava, his heart and soul and leadership ability, that's hard to replace. The two ends, Slade (Norris) and Victor (Butler). Each one of them, in their own right, were special. It was a tough group that played well together. We're not replacing chopped liver. The guys who are stepping in got a lot to live up to. The immediate concern is in the secondary, no doubt in my mind. Because you can play good for 75 plays, but if the game is 76 plays long, all it takes is one shot down the field, and things get evened up. We've got to be smart in the way we play in the secondary and rely on the front to create pressure in the passing game. I think there are guys stepping into different spots -- we've got four ends and possibly a fifth that we feel really good about.
Who are your best pass rushers going to be?
MB: The two who come to mind are (end) Ben Terry, who will be a starter. I think he will be able to rush the passer with great effectiveness. Another guy, who right now is not a starter and was a tight end at this time last year, is Gabe Miller. I think he's going to be a good pass rusher. And then a guy coming off the bench in third down situations, Taylor Henry, a redshirt freshman this year, has got that ability. At the same time, (end) Kevin Frahm, who will be a starter for us, has changed his body a lot. He is very much like (former end) Jeff Van Orsow from the standpoint of his intellect and his work ethic. He's probably a step faster than Jeff and Jeff was old reliable. And we've got an X-factor in this guy, Matt LaGrone, a transfer from (Nevada), who was a basketball player and has been with us who had to sit out. He's 6-foot-6 and he's got some stuff to him. But those three guys I mentioned -- Ben Terry, Gabe Miller and Taylor Henry -- from a standpoint of being edge rushers, those three guys would probably be the ones to watch.
It seemed like tackle Stephen Paea, even when he was banged up, really asserted himself at the end of last season. How good can he be?
MB: You know he hasn't really played a lot of football [Paea starting playing football as a high school senior], so he's still learning the game, which is kind of scary. He is so explosive off his first two steps and then he's just so physically strong. And he's fast. I think his upside, as long as he stays healthy, is way out there because he's still learning the game itself and the intricacies to it. But he sure is a powerful, powerful guy who is very, very dominant. I think he is among the elite defensive tackles in this conference, no doubt about it.
Linebacker Keaton Kristick looks like a regular, if slightly larger, college student: Why is he so productive?
MB: He's a typical linebacker that we try to have in this defense. He was a tailback in high school, so he was his high school's best athlete. His background helps him out from a standpoint of his football intellect. He's extremely competitive. He has that desire to succeed. Football means a lot to him. And [linebackers coach] Greg Newhouse does
a tremendous job communicating to him. He has his attention and Keaton loves it. He listens and sucks up all the information like a sponge. He takes action upon his goals and things he wants to accomplish.
You've built a strong defensive foundation at Oregon State. Does your eye ever wander? Do you see yourself somewhere else in the future?
MB: Absolutely. In this business it's important to progress. I have aspirations within the profession, but one drive I have that is stronger than anything is quality of life. The next job I take has to be something that is, No. 1, that is better than the one I have. And, as you said, we've got some things established here. This is going on my 13th or 14th season coaching with (Mike Riley). I enjoy the atmosphere he sets. I enjoy the people I am around, day-in and day-out. I truly appreciate that my family is involved in the program. Money is important. Some day being able to have my own program is important. But some of those other things I just mentioned are equally, if not more important, to me. Life is too short and I've seen too many people who don't enjoy life. This is a great place to be coaching football.