Oregon State football defensive line looks to grow with experience
This story is the fifth 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 football's defensive line can improve from its 2021 campaign, but will it? That depends upon the health of redshirt junior Isaac Hodgins who will be receiving a second foot surgery after the surgery he received last fall ultimately didn't fix up his foot.
It will also depend on the massive defensive tackle Thomas Sio and defensive end Simon Sandberg who figure to be the starting trio up front. Sio figures to have a massive impact on the defense, according to Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith.
"He's showing plenty of flashes, and that's why I go back to this spring," Smith said back in February. "He was in a good space for about a week and a half, playing really well. If he can consistently be out there, he maybe can be our best D-lineman."
With defensive ends Sione Lolohea and Tavis Shippin, as well as tackle James Rawls filling in the second unit, and Takari Hickle and Quincy Wright joining senior Cody Anderson, Jake Wright, Sebastian Briski and Fa'amoe Omarion, Oregon State will have plenty of athletes to try and improve the squad's production.
The team will need to fill the holes left by outgoing players Keonte Schad, Jeromy Reichner and Alexander Skelton.
In 2021, Oregon State gave up 143.8 rushing yards per game, sixth most in the conference, and the defense collected just 20 sacks all season, tied for ninth overall. But under the direction of new defensive coordinator Trent Bray, the Beavers might make some schematic changes to better maximize the team's defensive potential.
"It was a midseason change and now he can really put his imprint on making some changes and implementing his style," Smith said of his new defensive coordinator. "The schematics aren't dramatically different, but he had some strong opinions on where we wanted to go."
Collectively, the Beavers gave up 335 points last season for the eighth most in the conference but allowed the sixth fewest points per game with 25.8. Oregon State finished the season with a 7-6 record.
And while he won't be in Corvallis this fall, the Beavers made a big splash on the defensive line in the recruiting game this offseason. Kelze Howard from Spring Valley High School in Nevada committed to Oregon State back on June 27.
Howard is a four-star defensive end and is not only the eighth highest ranked player to commit to OSU, but he's the highest ranked defensive commit the program has ever had. Needless to say, Smith and Bray are already seeing some wins in the recruiting department, now they hope it translate onto the field in 2022.
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