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Beaver Football Review: Defensive Backs

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Colorado Chet Strange-USA TODAY Sports

This is part 5 of Building the Dam’s recap of the 2023 football season and status of the 2024 roster. Prior entries can be found here.

Part 1: Offense and Quarterbacks

Part 2: Running Backs & Offensive Line

Part 3: Wide Receiver & Tight End

Part 4: Defense & Front Seven

Cornerback: Jaden Robinson (646), Ryan Cooper Jr. (577), Jermod McCoy (411), Noble Thomas (284), Josiah Johnson (152), Tyrice Ivy Jr. (151), Andre Jordan Jr. (141), Jaydin Young (22), Joe Swen (6), Drake Vickers (1), Harlem Howard (1)

2023 Recap

The cornerback rotation went through numerous phases throughout the year due to both performance and injury. Upper classmen Robinson and Cooper Jr. were fixtures when healthy, but Cooper was out for 2 games and Robinson missed 1 (and was limited in 3 others). That combined with an injury to Ivy Jr. early on provided ample opportunity for McCoy to step into the mix. McCoy became a fixture on the outside while Cooper moved back and forth between the outside and slot depending on the health of the rest of the group. The combination of Thomas, Johnson, & Jordan Jr. all filled into to varying degrees in the back half of the year. The depth was severely tested multiple times, particularly in the Arizona game when Cooper, Thomas, and Johnson were all out of action, forcing safety Akili Arnold into slot corner duty.

Despite the churn, it was an impressive showing by the top four players in terms of snap counts. Robinson was tied for the team lead with 7 pass breakups while McCoy was right behind him with 6. McCoy added two interceptions to that total, matching four other Beavers for the team lead. Cooper had a single interception that he turned into six points and allowed a reception on just 54% of the time he was targeted (which was a team-high 52 times).

2024 Forecast

Incoming Transfers: Kobe Singleton (Liberty, 717 Snaps), Mason White (TCU, 49)

Other Players on Roster (both CB and S): Ian Massey (R-Jr), Skyler Thomas (Jr), Sam Mason Jr (R-Fr, 3 Star), Carlos Mack Jr (R-Fr), Jhae Drummer (R-Fr, N/A), Austin Ratliff (Fr), Milan Clark (Fr, N/A)

Recruits: Exodus Ayers (3 Stars), Amarion York (3 Stars)

Robinson will be back for a 7th year of college football next fall, which will provide some much needed continuity with Cooper’s eligibility complete and McCoy entering the transfer portal and heading to Tennessee. The position group will be further bolstered by the transfer portal. Singleton has one more year of eligibility and comes to Corvallis with plenty of starting experience under his belt. White is a former JUCO corner who received prior interest from Oregon State before ending up at TCU. Both will likely compete for the outside slot across from Robinson, while Thomas and Johnson have experience in the slot.

Ivy suffered an injury that kept him out for much of the 2nd half. He was one of the three starters to begin the year and will likely be in the mix again, either at corner or safety.

Safety: Kitan Oladapo (787), Akili Arnold (657), Jack Kane (298), Wynston Rusell (36), Alton Julian (35)

2023 Recap

The safeties were the strength of the Oregon State defense in 2023. Oladapo was the highest graded defensive player on the Beavers roster by PFF with an 88.2 overall grade, good for 5th highest in the country. He was tied with Robinson for the team lead with 7 pass breakups and added 2 interceptions and 2 sacks to his resume. That was enough for him to be named 2nd team All-Pac-12 and will likely see his name called in the middle rounds of the NFL draft.

Arnold made up the 2nd half of the safety duo and was a force in his own right. The junior’s 80.2 PFF grade was good enough for 27th in the country. The pair were healthy for much of the year, until Arnold went down in the UW game and missed the following week at Oregon. Kane started to see the field regularly in the UCLA game, filling in at safety as Arnold and Oladapo filled gaps in the cornerback rotation.

2024 Forecast

Incoming Transfers: N/A

Other Players on Roster: (See Cornerback Section)

Recruits: Jaheim Patterson (N/A)

With Oladapo out of eligibility and headed to the NFL, and Arnold following his stepbrother Easton Mascarenas-Arnold to USC for next season, the Beavers have a lot to sort out with the safety position. Julian is a Redshirt Senior who has worked through multiple injuries, including a torn ACL in 2021. There is additional eligibility there for him if he can make a recovery and would be outstanding for the secondary if he can make a 2024 return. Kane saw playing time through various injuries in the secondary. Have to imagine that he is not part of the mix next year. Ivy may be shifting to safety after spending time at corner in 2023 and coming back from injury.