Spectators at Oregon State's spring football practices have seen a dominating defensive line much of the time.

One way to look at it is that it's a good sign since the Beavers were rocked by the departure of starting defensive end Matt LaGrone hours before the first workout on March 29.

He left the team to be with his wife and children in Reno, Nev., leaving the Beavers scrambling at end.

"It was kind of surprising," senior Gabe Miller said. "You never want to lose a guy like that, but I think we are all right. We will get through."

Miller, a returning starter who took over midseason last year, anchors the group. After him a group of inexperienced players are being broken in.

Sophomore Taylor Henry moved into the starting role vacated by LaGrone. He played some as last season progressed.

At times, those two have owned the offense line. They are just too fast for offensive tackles Mike Remmers, Wilder McAndrews and Timi Oshinowo.

"I like what it looks like," coach Mike Riley said. "These guys have played really well to this stage in camp. By the time we get to the games we'll be pretty deep there."

Defensive line coach Joe Seumalo, however, sees that his players have a long way to go. He notices the success they are having, but takes into account that the offensive line is not at full strength.

Two starters are out due to injury - tackle Michael Philipp and guard Grand Johnson - and another starting guard is in the process of being found with a four-man competition.

"It's going," Seumalo said of defensive end development. "We are trying to collectively get some great moments with us executing our defense. We have to continue to work on fundamentals and plug away. I expect big things out of everybody, but we'll find out."

Miller heads into his second season as an end after spending three as a tight end.

The move was out of necessity for depth, and to help him get on the field sooner since the tight end position was crowded.

"I feel comfortable at D-end, and I'm having a lot of fun," Miller said. "I have the right mindset on defense as opposed to tight end."

Miller made a quick impact in his five starts with 23 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles.

He increased his speed and size in offseason training. He's 6-foot-3, 249 pounds and was timed as the fastest OSU player in a 10-yard sprint in 1.54 seconds - twice.

The defense needs Miller to have a big season. If he does, he could put himself in position to be an NFL draft pick in 2011.

"It's kind of weird to think I'm the veteran of the group," Miller said. "But now I'm trying to set myself up to have a successful year, and make some plays."

Henry is a 6-1, 240-pounder who is athletic and has good speed for his position. He had a sack and eight tackles in mop-up roles last season.

"I think Taylor will be fine," Seumalo said. "He has been playing that position the last couple years now. It should be all old news for him."

After them it's thin this spring. Mana Rosa and Mitchel Hunt are out due to injuries, John Braun moved over from the offensive line and Andrew Seumalo and Devon Kell are walk-ons who are in the developmental stage and on the second string at the moment.

Junior college transfer Dominic Glover joins the team in the summer. He's being looked at as someone who can play significantly this fall.

Glover is a 6-4, 280-pounder from Saddleback College in Southern California. He signed with Oregon, redshirted and hurt his back. He has two years to play two seasons.

LaGrone's departure shocked the Beavers but Seumalo found ways to get the most out of his players before.

He hopes to do it again since he's patching the ends together. When they do well, there's a trickle-down effect on the whole defense.

"We are excited about the new guys coming in," Seumalo said. "For the guys who are here now, we are trying to refine things and work on being right."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.