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Oregon State Football: Defensive Backs Preview 2018

Injuries ravaged this unit last year; how will they look in 2018?

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Oregon State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports


NCAA Football: Oregon State at Southern California Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
  • Jalen Moore (Safety, Jr.) - After Manase Hungalu, Moore was the team leader on tackles, with 50 solo and 75 total, and also grabbed an interception and a forced fumble.
  • David Morris (Safety, So.) - Morris was another leader on defense last year, and matched Moore’s total tackles with 75.
  • Omar Hicks-Onu (Safety, Jr.) - Hicks-Onu saw more time on the field as injuries began to take their toll, and grabbed his first start. He finished the year with 38 total tackles.
  • Jeffrey Manning Jr. (Safety, R-Fr.) - Used his redshirt last season, but Manning could see some field time after impressing during spring camp.
  • TraJon Cotton (Safety, R-Fr.) - Also used his redshirt last year, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get some time this season.
  • Dwayne Williams (CB, Sr.) - Went down with an injury after the first three games last season. That came after he missed five games in 2016 to injury. If he manages to get healthy, he’ll be a valuable for the team, but his health is a big question.
  • Shawn Wilson (CB, Jr.) - After all the injuries the secondary suffered, Wilson stepped up and got 5 starts last year. He finished the season with 34 total tackles and an interception.
  • Isaiah Dunn (CB, So.) - Dunn also got 5 starts after injuries tore through the secondary. He finished the year with 28 total tackles.
  • Jay Irvine (CB, Jr.) - Got four starts in 2017, and finished with 18 total tackles.
  • DeShon Wilson (CB, Fr.) - Wilson graduated early, and attended spring camp. He looked very impressive there, and could see the field early in his career.
  • Kaleb Hayes (CB) - Hayes redshirted last year, but had a very impressive Spring, and should be ready to contribute in the Fall.

Who’s Gone

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Stanford Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
  • Xavier Crawford (CB) - This one hurts. Despite being injured for part of 2017, Crawford was still a leader in the unit. After a great debut season in 2016, 50 tackles and an interception, Crawford only saw time in 5 games last year after injuring his back. Crawford was still limited during spring practices, and at some point decided to reunite with his old DB Coach, Cory Hall, at Central Michigan.
  • Kyle White (CB) - With injuries all over the secondary in 2017, White stepped up to fill in, seeing playtime for the first time in his senior season. He performed admirably, considering the circumstances, with 21 total tackles and an interception.
  • Brandon Arnold (Safety) - A mainstay on the defense for most of his career, although in his final season he began to see fewer snaps due to the emergence of David Morris. His veteran presence will be missed, but Safety is going to be a very exciting position for the Beavers this fall.
  • Austin Harold (Safety) - A transfer, who Gary Anderson had originally recruited at Wisconsin, Harold didn’t see much time in his one and only season at OSU, and elected to retire.

New Faces

Safeties - Jeffrey Manning Jr. and TraJon Cotton, both redshirt freshmen, are the new faces to watch in this unit. Of the two, Manning looked stronger in the Spring practices, and seems ready to read offenses and make plays at the college level.

Cornerbacks - Deshon Wilson and Kaleb Hayes were two of the biggest standouts on defense during spring training. Wilson in particular looked like something special. He’ll likely redshirt this season, but with changes made to redshirt rules, he could still show up in up to four games.

Who Will Start?

NCAA Football: Oregon at Oregon State Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports


Dwayne Williams: Williams should get one of the starting positions, as he’s got the most experience and strong leadership skills, but his health is still a big concern He’s only played in a handful of games over the last two years.

Shawn Wilson: With Crawford’s departure, Wilson is the most likely person to step up and fill a starting position. He did just that last year, and was one of the team’s stronger players on defense. He’ll need to dodge his own injury problems however.

If either player is not ready to go, Isaiah Dunn is probably the next man to step up. Jay Irvine and Kaleb Hayes will see a bit of time, and Deshon Wilson should get some minutes early in the season.


Jalen Moore: Potentially the best returning player on the defense, Moore is easy to pencil in not just for a starting role, but as a leader for the secondary and the defense as a whole.

David Morris: The Morris and Moore tandem was the highlight of the defense last year, and represents one of the only pieces of continuity from last season to this season. That experience is going to prove valuable to a team that otherwise has so much turnover.

Omar Hicks-Onu saw the field quite a bit last year, and has experience playing nickel, so we should be seeing him a lot, especially if Moore or Morris goes down.

What to Expect

Lots of Potential: Despite losing its best player, the secondary looks like it should be in a good place. There’s both veteran leadership, and some exciting young prospects. The big risk going forward is injuries; they seemed to spread like a virus last year, and we’re still not sure if some of the team’s best players are back up to peak performance.

Other than Crawford, new DB coach Greg Burns looks to have the unit behind him. He also just landed a big commitment from 3 star CB Alex Austin. Everyone in Corvallis should be excited to see what he can put together on the field.

Stay tuned for more 2018 Oregon State football position previews!