The depth comes with a lack of playing experience, but that doesn’t have Joe Seumalo any less excited about the progress of his defensive ends.
Oregon State’s defensive line coach has a cornerstone in senior Dylan Wynn, whose 32 career starts are a team high.
Junior Jaswha James is expected to start opposite Wynn after a full season as a reserve in 2013.
After that is a group of players with little field time, waiting for their opportunity.
“They’re young as far as playing a lot of game plays, but they’re reliable guys,” Seumalo said earlier this week.
Among that group is senior Obum Gwacham, who made the switch to defensive end back in the spring after a minimal impact the past three seasons as a receiver.
Gwacham, a high jumper who has cleared 7 feet, said he wasn’t nervous making the change because he had teammates helping him.
The fact that he got positive feedback from coaches was also a plus.
“I was able to show them I could get after the quarterback, and they seemed to like what they saw so I was able to get some more reps,” Gwacham said.
Gwacham says the biggest challenge remains the technique involved. His progress there has helped him move up the depth chart.
He’s working to learn the playbook, though his athleticism and speed have helped him close the gap.
Gwacham, listed at 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds, says he’s enjoying the process and seeing new and different things each day.
“He’s incredibly athletic. He’s a force off the side,” Wynn said. “He’s a student of the game. He loves getting in and doing the Xs and Os on everything.”
Seumalo lights up when he talks about Gwacham, who never hesitated in making the position change.
The coach says the key, because of Gwacham’s inexperience with his new spot, is to keep it simple.
“We’re going to have to find a way to take advantage of his speed and athleticism off the edge. That’s the part I’m truly excited about,” Seumalo said.
Scott Crichton passed on his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL, and up steps James.
James turned his play up a notch late in the 2013 season, which has helped him earn a spot on the first-team defense opposite Wynn.
“He’s just a smart kid. Smart, reliable, tough, very capable of making things physical and being able to hold his position on the edge,” Seumalo said. “But I like his leadership. He’s quiet, doesn’t say much, but guys respect him because of the work he’s put in the weight room, the work he’s put in the field. He’ll be good.”
Gwacham will fill the No. 2 role behind James on the left side, while junior Lavonte Barnett is the second in line to Wynn.
Barnett served a reserve role in 2013 as well, playing in 12 games.
Candidates for filling in the remaining rotation spots are two redshirt freshmen, three true freshmen and a sophomore.
Redshirt freshman Titus Failauga played well on the scout team in 2013, which could give him a chance to play a significant amount of downs this fall.