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With Alton Julian and Jaden Robinson ideally returning from injury, secondary could boost lackluster pass defense

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon State defensive backs Akili Arnold (0) and Kitan Oladapo (28) try to break up a pass against Oregon on Nov. 27, 2021 at Autzen Stadium.

This story is the third of six in a summer series breaking down Oregon State football by position group leading up to the first official practices before the season.

Oregon State's defense will be run by Trent Bray in 2022. Bray, previously the inside linebackers coach, was a former OSU linebacker himself and will bring his years of experience with the position into developing an underperforming part of the team's defense last year.

The Beavers bring a full complement of returning outside linebackers into the 2022 season, including juniors Andrew Chatfield, John McCartan and Riley Sharp, and sophomores Cory Stover, Ryan Franke, Cade Brownholtz and Semisi Saluni. Joining the team for the first time will be freshman Mathias Malaki-Donaldson.

Departing from the outside linebacker corps are seniors Andrzej Hughes-Murray, sophomore Addison Gumbs, and freshman Shane Kady.

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Last year the team ranked 10th in sacks in the Pac-12 and the Beavs gave up 243.5 yards per game, 11th worst in the conference. Only UCLA gave up more with 260.2 yards per game conceded.

On the inside linebacker front, the team returns junior Omar Speights, senior Kyrei Fisher, sophomore Easton Mascarenas-Arnold, and senior Jack Colletto. Coming into the program during the summer will be freshmen Melvin Jordan IV, Kord Shaw and Tyree Blake. Juniors Avery Roberts and Noah Seumalo, and freshman Junior Walling will be departing.

The Beavers were led last year by the departed Roberts and the returning Speights. Roberts led the way with 123 tackles on the season, and Speights finished ninth overall with 87 total tackles.

The defensive linebackers, despite giving up the second worst pass yardage in the conference, had the third most interceptions in the Pac-12. Oregon State had 15 interceptions, tied with Washington State. The team gave up 25.8 points per game and 387.4 yards per game over last season.

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Cornerbacks Alex Austin and Rejzohn Wright, and sophomores Alton Julian and Jaydon Grant, and nickle Ron Hardge will return to the defense in starting roles, and the defensive backs will be led by coaches Blue Adams and cornerbacks coach Anthony Perkins. Ideally, the team shows growth when Julian returns from knee injury and second team cornerback Jaden Robinson returns from a shoulder injury.

Oregon State should show improvement in what remains of the Pac-12 if the returning players show signs of maturation and the younger players contribute meaningful minutes.

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