Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker has been rebuilding what was supposed to be a veteran defense throughout the offseason.
With one week to go before the season opener in Arlington, Texas, against No. 6-ranked Texas Christian, he's still hard at work.
The Beavers lost a starting defensive end and middle linebacker when they decided to be with their families instead of play football. Another starting linebacker, Keith Pankey, had to recover from a ruptured Achilles' tendon.
Banker and his staff did what he could, but training camp has been a challenge. Minor injuries ravaged his group. Players were constantly on the sidelines watching instead of practicing.
The offense got the better of the defense during scrimmages and team interactions in practice. So Banker is upset about that.
Defenses, by rule of thumb, usually start out better than offenses. Is OSU's offense that potent, or is the defense in trouble?
Here's Banker's take on the defense as the team delves into TCU prep.
What's the state of the defense at this point?
"When we've been healthy and everyone playing together we've had our moments of pretty good consistency."
How serious are your string of injuries?
"They are minor things. We shut down a bunch of guys for a while. The one thing we never did in camp was we never had our first group together other than the first day."
Will that be a long-term problem?
"The plus side of that was a lot of guys got more work, and we got a lot of different combinations. We just would have liked to have that No. 1 group to build chemistry. What we had was a different set of chemicals to make the same product. And that's not bad. It just comes out different each time."
What is your reaction to the rough scrimmages for the defense?
"In both scrimmages we didn't play to any potential. We were flat out average. I'm tired of seeing the deep ball being complete. I don't care how good or fast James (Rodgers) is, or how good of an arm (Ryan) Katz has. We played vanilla, but if we can't play vanilla then the chocolate and strawberry, why practice it. We need to be sound and play technique. The scrimmages, hopefully, that's not an indication of who we are or who we will be."
How will the pass rush be improved?
"Just improved players. We know who Steven Paea is, but Kevin Frahm is a different player. Brennan Olander is a different player now. Gabe Miller and Taylor Henry are different. If our players don't improve that means they are not good enough playing who they are playing against. They can get off the ball and have the tools to pass rush. If that doesn't happen, then the other teams are just better than us."
Is there a concern about the run defense?
"Our run defense is not where it needs to be now. That's more than anything the nature of offense we face every day and chemistry of guys playing off one another. That hasn't solidified, yet. It's not going to solidify until we get going with the season. Then it has to come together with the timing between the players and the consistency. Our run defense needs to improve tackle to tackle, not the edge stuff. I'm talking meat and potatoes."
Who will be the starting middle linebacker?
"We are still trying to solidify the middle linebacker position. Right now it's Rueben (Robinson) and Tony Wilson. We have to see how they play. Someone will go on the field first, but both will play."
How's Keith Pankey doing coming back from an Achilles' injury?
"Pankey is doing great. Once you get something repaired, I don't know if you ever come back 100 percent. But he's playing well. It's huge to have him back. His leadership, energy the whole nine yards."
What's the defensive end depth look like?
"We'll play with who we have. (True freshman) Scott Crighton may play, but he has to play 90 plays, not 20. We'll see. Devon Kell and Andrew Seumalo have been playing well and took the next step."
Will JC transfer Dominic Glover be ready to play?
"Dominic Glover needs to improve. There's more in him than we've seen. I know there is."
What's the focus until the season starts?
"The biggest thing is teach these guys and learning about TCU. We've been playing the same (offense), and then the run and pass comes out different. When the lights go on, we'll know. But the group has done some things that are solid."