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2017 Position Preview: Defensive Backs

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Beavs expect big things from freshman All-American Xavier Crawford

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Personnel

Cornerback

  • Kyle White (SR)
  • Charles Okonkwo (SR)
  • Dwayne Williams (JR)
  • Julian Brentley (JR)
  • Xavier Crawford(SO)
  • Jay Irvine (SO)
  • Shawn Wilson (SO)
  • Christian Wallace(R-Fr)
  • Jaydon Grant (R-Fr)
  • Jeffrey Manning Jr (Fr)
  • Kaleb Hayes (FR)
  • Isaiah Dunn (FR)
  • Justin Gardner (FR)

Safety

  • Brandon Arnold(SR)
  • Landry Payne (SR)
  • Drew Kell (JR)
  • Austin Hudson (JR)
  • Kameron Carroll (JR)
  • Jalen Moore (SO)
  • Omar Hicks-Onu (SO)
  • Tyler Delashmutt(SO)
  • TJ Cotton (FR)
  • Charles Moku Watson(FR)
  • David Morris (FR)

Definitely/Could Be Gone

Treston Decoud: The JUCO transfer Decoud has exhausted his eligibility. He played extremely well while in Corvallis and is expected to be picked in the upcoming NFL Draft. Decoud is currently preparing for next week’s NFL Combine and recently owned Charles Nelson on twitter

Devin Chappell: The former walk-on out of Springfield, who transferred to OSU from Western Oregon University, emerged the past two seasons as a key piece of the Beaver defense while starting at safety. Chappell has a good chance to sign with an NFL team following the draft.

Rahmel Dockery: The wide receiver turned cornerback and special teams contributor has exhausted his eligibility.

Chris Henry: The cornerback is no longer listed on the OSU roster.

Others?: Given the shear amount of defensive backs on the roster (13 corners and 11 safeties) it would be no surprise to see some transfer following spring ball or summer camp. Several players could also move to other positions.

New To The Mix

Defensive back was a point of emphasis for the coaching staff in the 2017 recruiting class, bringing aboard a host of athletes to compete for playing time.

Austin Hudson (Wisconsin via Southern Florida) and Kameron Carrol (JUCO) both come in as experienced options at safety with two years of eligibility remaining. Prep safeties TJ Cotton (Sacramento, CA), Charles Moku Watson (Wahiawa, HI) and David Morris (Sherwood, OR) will join the Beavs for fall camp. David Morris has the best shot to contribute as a true freshman.

Christian Wallace technically isn’t new to Oregon State but the four-star cornerback had to sit out last season due to academics, he is currently academically eligible and practicing with the team. The Beavers will welcome prep stars Jeffrey Manning Jr (Los Angeles, CA), Isaiah Dunn (Antioch, CA), Justin Gardner (Snellville , GA) and Kaleb Hayes (San Bernardino, CA) in the fall. At this point given the depth at the cornerback position it would not be a surprise to see all four of them redshirt their first year on campus, though as we learned at linebacker last year depth can be tested often and this staff is not afraid to put true freshman on the field if the need arises.

Who Will Start?

Xavier Crawford is expected to start at cornerback following last year’s stellar season which garnered him freshman All-American honors. Who will start opposite Crawford will be determined in the spring and fall, but the most likely candidates are Jay Irvine, Shawn Wilson and Christian Wallace. Dwayne Williams will likely remain as the starting nickleback in passing situations, a role he excelled in last year.

Brandon Arnold is a returning starter at safety, and barring something unforeseen should hold on to that position for the 2017 season. The real battle among the safeties will be to see who replaces Devin Chappell with the most obvious candidates being Omar Hicks-Onu, Jalen Moore, Austin Hudson and David Morris.

What To Expect?

Ongoing position battle

No matter who comes out ahead after fall camp, expect the competition to go on throughout the season. It doesn’t matter how you practice, there is no way to simulate real game atmosphere so I would expect several guys to get playing time early in the season as the coaching staff figures out who performs best on Saturdays (and sometimes Thursday and Friday).

Position changes

With the current count at twenty-four defensive backs I would not be surprised to see one or more moved to other positions following spring ball or fall camp. One to keep an eye on is senior Kyle White who transferred to Oregon State from the JUCO ranks as a running back before being moved to corner. If White isn’t in the DB rotation he could potentially provide some much needed depth beyond Nall and Pierce in the offensive backfield. True freshman David Morris could also be on the move as many have projected him as a linebacker at the college level. Morris and Christian Wallace were prolific high school running backs, but I suspect Oregon State defensive coordinator Kevin Clune will do all he can to keep those two athletes on the defensive side of the ball.

2017 Oregon State Football Position Previews

Sunday (2/19): Quarterbacks
Monday (2/20): Running Backs
Tuesday (2/21): Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Wednesday (2/22): Offensive Line
Thursday (2/23): Defensive Line
Friday (2/24): Linebackers
Saturday (2/25): Defensive Backs
Sunday (2/26): Special Teams