Fall Camp Questions - Defensive Line

The defensive line returns only one starter in DT Steven Paea, but there are players up and down the line who have been part of rotations in seasons past. (Photo by Ethan Erickson)

Fall Camp opens today for the eighteen teams that open the season on September 3, but the majority of camps will open on the other side of the weekend, including at Oregon State, where get things underway at 2:00p.m. Monday in Corvallis. 

We'll keep the Fall Camp questions series rolling today with a look at the defensive line, which returns just one guy from a year ago-- Steven Paea. Outstanding defensive ends Norris and Butler are gone, as well as Pernnell Booth at the right tackle position. 

In the shadows of Norris and Butler rise two very capable replacements-- Ben Terry and Kevin Frahm. They're both small(ish) by defensive end standards, but they have the speed to come off the edge. 

Terry doesn't possess the vocal leadership that Norris or Butler did, but he is highly respected for his play on the field. He had the skills to come straight out of high school and contribute on the Division 1 level, but he didn't have his acedemics in good enough shape to do so. He went to Arizona Western Community College his freshman year, then moved over to Saddleback CC his sophomore year, where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, and was an all-conference defensive end with 42 tackles on the year. He entered the Oregon State program last season and served as an understudy to Norris and Butler, learning the system and improving his game. 

Frahm, on the other hand, has been in the program for three years since coming out of Central Catholic in Portland. He played in every game last year as a redshirt freshman and recorded four tackles, and is expected to start this season. He's known for his weight room workouts, and could be the team's second strongest player behind defensive tackle Steven Paea. 

A native of Tonga, Steven Paea may be one of the strongest players in college football. In a recent feature by Ted Miller, it was revealed that the man can bench "525 or 530 pounds". He squats 720. Paea will need to step up as the leader of the line, as the vocal leadership of Norris and Butler is gone. He quietly had a breakthrough season last year, recording 41 tackles and five sacks-- and was a big part of OSU's 3-0 Sun Bowl win, in which the OSU defense held Pitt's rushing attack to under 90 yards. 

Of the players who will compete to play defensive line this season, the aforementioned three players have their starting spots seemingly firmed up heading into camp. That leaves a hole at Left Tackle, where Latu Moala seems like the frontrunner, but Mitchel Hunt is also in the mix. The simple fact that Oregon State and defensive line coach Joe Seumalo like to rotate bodies in and out in the line means at we'll see a lot of guys like Taylor Henry, Matt LaGrone, and converted TE Gabe Miller

Taylor Henry has great speed off the edge, and will likely play on third downs. He grey-shirted last season, so he could still wait another year to save eligibility, but I'm not sure that the coaches are in favor of that idea with the line as inexperienced as it is. He was a sprinter back in high school, and checks in at 6-1, 228. 

Gabe Miller is doing a nice job according to coaches in his switch from tight end to defensive lineman. Mike Riley even said that when they were recruiting Miller out of Lake Oswego, they saw him more as a defensive linemen than a tight end. As a junior, he'll probably be a situational substitute for Frahm and Terry, then slip into Terry's spot for next season. 

The coaches are still excited to see what Matt LaGrone can do, since he was nursing a wrist injury in spring camp. The redshirt junior came to Oregon State from Nevada, where he was the sixth man off the bench for the Wolfpack basketball team during his sophomore season. 

This group has it's playmakers, but it will be a relatively young group starting out. Paea should only improve, and Frahm and Terry need to hit the ground running as full-time starters. If the Beavers can fill the left tackle position with a reliable guy, the line should be able to put pressure on what will be some inexperienced Pac-10 quarterbacks in order to help out the also inexperienced secondary. 

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)

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