On paper, the Oregon State defense looks pretty good going into Saturday’s 1 p.m. season opener against Portland State in Reser Stadium.
There’s experience across the board. The Beavers return 10 players with at least two starts under their belts.
It’s a good sign for a team that will face some of the top offenses in the country each week.
“Our defense is one of the strengths of our team right now,” senior strong safety Tyrequek Zimmerman said. “We have a lot of guys coming back and a lot of guys that played together last year.”
Dylan Wynn returns at right end and Siale Hautau and Bud Delva are both experienced tackles.
Jaswha James has played at left end and the coaching staff is excited about the prospects of tackle Jalen Grimble.
“Our d-line, we have multiple people that we can throw in at the other starting d-end,” Wynn said. “That’s the beauty of our d-line, is we don’t have four starters. We have close to eight, maybe nine, 10 starters. And these are guys that can do and have proven that they can play at the D-I level as a starter at d-end or tackle.
“So that rotation keeps guys fresh and really wears down offenses.”
Starting safeties Ryan Murphy and Zimmerman are back, as is Steven Nelson, who had six interceptions a year ago, at left cornerback.
The Beavers are looking at a few players, including Larry Scott and Dashon Hunt, to step in at the right side.
“Our DB position, we have guys that can fill in,” Wynn said. “We have multiple guys who are good enough to start on our defense and have proven it in camp and over this fall that we’ve had.”
Senior linebackers D.J. Alexander, Michael Doctor and Jabral Johnson have 59 starts between them and Rommel Mageo and Caleb Saulo both started games last season.
Most of the players are comfortable with each other after playing together, in some cases for several years.
“Once you played with players that long, you understand what they tend to do, their tendencies, you know how to execute the defense and trust them that they’re going to do their job,” Wynn said.
“That cohesiveness really helps us.”
The group is able to interact about football from a more advance point of view.
Few of the players need to concentrate on the basics of the scheme.
“Anytime you have experience and guys that have been in the system for any length of time, the best thing is when you start talking about football, generally and specifically, they actually understand the conversation,” defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. “Then you can have conversations in the film room, too.”
That would allow for the Beavers to add to the scheme.
Banker said that’s a possibility, although it’s not always an advantage.
“Certainly we would hope that they could handle more information and a little bit more scheme and we could carry a few more things to help them when certain situations come up , so that we can attack a little bit differently, have a changeup in the way we attack, rather than just doing one thing.
“At the same time, if you’re able to do just one thing and you’re able to do it really, really well and you can beat the guy in front of you constantly and consistently, that’s a great thing, too.
“Sometimes more scheme and less familiarity doesn’t allow these guys to play fast and use their athletic ability. So you always want to make sure that they have a firm grasp of what they do because reactions are such a big deal.”