27.Aug.2011 Grading the Defense
Below are my grades for the defense. My methodology is simple: consider the starter and backup and then give the unit a score. Given the number of injuries the Beavers have had this season, I feel grading only the starters would be an inaccurate measure of the defense. Also, even without injuries, the Beavs want to get back to substitutions so the guys behind the starters will play.
Rudolf Fifita/Dylan Wynn
Analysis: Henry is a 3rd down specialist, plain and simple. He's below average versus the run. Fifita is…well…nobody knows. If you like Fifita, raise the grade. To me he's a wildcard, and considering his offer sheet and how late he signed it's hard for me to be optimistic. If Wynn jumps to #2 on the final depth chart, upgrade this unit to a B. He has maximum upside potential and could end the season as the starter.
Grade: C- (B if Wynn makes a move)
LEFT DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Analysis: Masaniai does one thing exceptionally well: he takes up space. The Beavs desperately need it since Frahm and Glover are undersized for their position. Still, the depth here is weak, and the starter is a serviceable player, but one with limitations. Mana Tuivailala is a wildcard. I'd think he'd see action before Ben Motter, but right now Riley has Motter as the two.
RIGHT DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Andrew Seumalo/Kevin Frahm
Analysis: Patchwork of an ex-defensive end and a former walk-on/coach's son. Only at OSU, right? This is probably the weakest position on the entire defense. The loss of Fred Thompson was huge…when we look back on it next year, we'll probably recognize it was a season changing injury. Those are the breaks. Once Frahm returns, upgrade this unit to a C.
Analysis: Crichton will be a force. Fernando is a serviceable backup, though probably more of a third down specialist. Overall the combo is a good one.
Analysis: Potential NFL talent in Cameron Collins, and then a drop off to a Pac-12 tweener in Robinson makes this group "top heavy".
Jabral Johnson is a wildcard, but all signs point to a red-shirt.
Analysis: Unga came on strong at the halfway point last season. Many people didn't notice, but some of us did. He's had a heck of a fall camp. Tony Wilson is at full speed and has also had a great camp. If one of these guys gets hurt there should be no drop in production. MLB was a glaring weakness last season. Not this year.
D.J. Welch/Shiloah Te’o
Analysis: Will is probably the deepest LB position. Any of these three could start and do well. In my opinion, Welch is the most talented of the group, but Doctor is more refined at this point. Te'o is a tad small, but plays like you'd expect from a (former) Cougar. My two concerns with Doctor are his size and coverage skills. I've seen him have trouble bringing down and covering running backs. The depth here makes this the strongest LB corp.
Analysis: Again, a top heavy position. Poyer will be an all-conference player, but Parker hasn't developed at all. So, we have an A corner and a C corner, making the two-deep their average.
Analysis: Tremendous combo. Watkins is flat out solid, and Murphy is an up and coming ball hawk.
Analysis: Interesting that we have two former WRs at this position. Similar players, too. Zimmerman is promising but unproven, and Mitchell has nagging abdominal issues. I have a minor concerns (i.e. health), but the talent is top notch.
Analysis: Rashaad Reynolds is an upgrade over Brandin Hardin. Hardin was solid in run support and brought a lot of experience, but his flexing, posturing, and flat out blown coverages were old. Reynolds has better coverage skills. We'll probably be frustrated with him as he gets burned and grows into the position, but by week 6 we'll have completely forgotten about Brandin Hardin.
Overall, I expect the defense to be much improved over last season. My overall grade, at least for the starters, would be a B+. Depth knocks that down a bit, but barring injuries they'll be good.