Today we take a look at the Oregon State defense, led by former Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake. The Beavers defense is a 3-4 scheme, coached by a host of former Utah coaches, including Sitake, Ilaisa Tuiaki, and former Utah defensive coordinator and current Beavers head coach Gary Anderson. While the Oregon State defensive coaches have a Utah pedigree, the Oregon State defense is not yet up to Utah’s caliber.
Opposing teams are averaging 5.01 yards per carry against the Beavers, and they give up 31.1 points per game, ranking them 10th in conference in both categories. They rank 7th in the conference in total defense allowing 402.3 yards per game. Their pass rush is weak, having only nine sacks this season, three of them in the season opener against FCS opponent Weber state.
In pass defense, the Beavers are considerably better, allowing 205 yards a game ranking them 3rd in conference, while holding opponents quarterbacks to just 6.7 yards per completion, good for 4th in conference. The Beaver defense has given up 10 touchdowns through the air and picked off the opposition 7 times this season.
The defensive line is anchored by senior nose tackle Kyle Peko. The 6-1 306 lb. tackle has been the Beavers most productive lineman this season, with 25 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and 1 sack. Senior Jashwa James and sophomore Baker Pritchard will start at the defensive end positions for the Beavers.
Pritchard is a Utah native, having grown up in South Jordan. He originally signed with BYU and spent a redshirt season in 2011 before going on a mission. When he returned, he made the decision to transfer to Corvallis where he has worked his way up from third string to starter in his two seasons. Pritchard has 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a pass broken up this season.
Junior Mike linebacker, Rommel Mageo is a leader for the Oregon Sate linebacking group. Mageo leads the Beavers in tackles this season with 55 and sacks with two. He as two pass break ups and a quarterback hurry as well this season. Junior Will linebacker Caleb Saulo is not far behind, with 46 tackles.
The other two starting linebackers are redshirt freshman Bright Ugwoegbu and Manase Hungalu. Ugwoegbu has impressed Oregon State coaches with his athleticism and high football IQ. At 6-2 217 lbs. Ugwoegbu has the speed to cover receivers and the toughness to play linebacker. The coaches play him at what they call the Flash position, which is a linebacker/safety hybrid, depending on what the offense is showing. Defensive coordinator Sitake will move Ugwoegbu around on the field to disguise blitzes and attempt to throw off the offense.
The Beavers lose junior cornerback Treston DeCoud for at least this week after a scary collision last week sent him to the hospital. He was released and was able to rejoin the team, but will be held out for precautionary measures on Saturday evening. In his place junior Kendall Hill is expected to make his first start for the Beavers in Rice-Eccles. Standing 6-2 weighing 204 lbs. Hill is a bigger corner who will likely be responsible for covering Kenneth Scott with his big frame. Scott should be able to use his experience to beat a defender in his first start for a few big gains on Saturday night.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Arnold and sophomore Justin Strong are the safeties for the Beavers. Strong is second on the team with 47 tackles while Brandon Arnold has 15 tackles and an interception this season. Redshirt freshman Dwayne Williams is the starting right corner and junior Cyril Noland-Lewis will step in as the nickelback in passing situations.
To put it bluntly, Oregon State isn’t very good. The Beavers are looking down the barrel at a two win season unless they can pull off something unexpected in their remaining five games. The good news for Beaver fans is the situation is temporary. The coaches at Oregon State will right the ship soon enough, and in fact the signs are already there in recruiting, with the Beavers recently getting commitments from two four star recruits.
The defense has been playing better throughout the season and there have been stretches where they have played well, including three consecutive three and outs to finish against Colorado. The Beaver defense has played particularly well in the past six quarters, holding it's opponents to 17 points, six three and outs, forcing eight punts and intercepting the opposing quarterback twice. It's important to note two of those quarters came against a Washington State team that had already built a commanding lead, and the other four against lowly Colorado. Still it gives the Beavers something to build on heading into the Utah game. Oregon State will develop into a good team in the near future, they just aren’t there right now.
This game offers an opportunity for the Utah offense to regain some much needed confidence heading into the final stretch of the season. Booker, if given carries, should have a big day. Wilson won’t see much pressure and will have plenty of time to make good decisions in the pocket. Oregon State allows opponents to convert on third down 54.55% of the time when playing on the road, something that bodes well for the Utes after only converting on 3 of 11 third downs against USC. Because of the gap in talent and experience, and with the coaching staffs effectively neutralizing each other with their familiarity, the Utah offense will have every opportunity to rebound from the USC loss against this Oregon State defense.