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Week 7 Defensive Preview: Oregon State (1–5)

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Cal’s offense looks to bounce back against a defense ranked as the second worst in the NCAA

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

Scouting Report:

Scheme: Base 3-4, Cover 2
Defensive Coordinator: Tim Tibesar

Week 6 Recap: Lost to Washington State 56–37
Pass Defense: 75 % completion percentage, 430 passing yards allowed and 5 touchdowns
Rush Defense: 100 rushing yards on 22 attempts, 4.5 yards per attempt, with 2 touchdowns
Total Defense: 1 turnovers (fumble recovery), 530 yards total offense allowed, 64 % third down conversion

Defensive Line:

Starting strong-side defensive end Miki Fifita is the largest player on Oregon State’s defensive line, coming in at 6 feet 4 inches tall and 312 pounds. Despite his immense size, he does not have immense production. Fifta has compiled only five total tackles all season long, with no sacks or tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The Beavers have the fourth-worst rushing defense in the NCAA. They have given up 270 yards per game on the ground through six games and opposing players average 6.7 yards per rush. Oregon State allowed Arizona and Arizona State to have two running backs rush for over 280 yards in back-to-back weeks. The D-line is susceptible to getting washed away and moved easily off the line by offensive lineman.

Starting nose tackle Kalani Vakameilalo has played well so far this season. His 19 games starting across four seasons is by far the most on the Beavers defensive line. Vakameilalo’s veteran leadership will come in handy with the younger defensive lineman on the roster. Two freshman defensive ends—Isaac Hodgins and Isaac Garcia—have worked their way into the regular rotation on the left side. True-freshman Hodgins has racked up a single tackle-for-loss and 16 total tackles as a starter. Cal could see success from their offense on the ground. The defensive line struggled to defend Arizona’s zone-read running plays and the speed from their running back JJ Taylor. Beau Baldwin should utilize some of their faster backfield backs to burst past the line and get away from linebackers on the second level.

Linebackers:

The outside linebackers on Oregon State are meant to rush the quarterbacks and disrupt the offense behind the line of scrimmage, but have rarely accomplished this. OLB Hamilcar Rashed Jr. leads all Beavers players with 1.5 sacks. Rashed—rated the No. 7 prospect in the state of Arizona by Rivals—has six tackles-for-loss to go along with his 1.5 sacks. He leads the Beavers in negative plays so far this season and has been a bright spot on the second level. Junior inside linebacker Shemar Smith has the second-most tackles and TFLs for Oregon State. Smith is coming off a season-high seven total tackles last week against a Washington State team that scored eight touchdowns. The starting linebacker unit is composed of juniors and senior players. Their experience and veteran knowledge of preparing for Pac-12 teams could help them when they face Cal on Oct. 21. Another true-freshman contributing regularly on this defense is inside ‘backer Isaiah Tufaga. He has the fifth-most tackles and is one of ten players with a single TFL.

Linebacker Jonathan Willis led the Beavers in sacks in 2017 with three. He’s tied for second on the team with one sack coming against Southern Utah in Week 2. Linebackers are getting the majority of the sacks on this team, just not in high volume. The Beavers defense has five total sacks and zero players with more than one. Five is the second-fewest amount of team sacks in the country. Considering Brandon McIlwain was sacked four times against UCLA, he—or whoever is taking snaps—should be safe from hitting the turf.

Defensive Backs:

Oregon State has given up an astronomical amount of passing yards this season. They’ve been shredded by every opponent so far this year. The Beavers defense allowed 592 yards passing and eight touchdowns through the air in their last two games combined. Their soft-butter secondary is very vulnerable to high-volume passing attacks. With McIlwain’s aerial struggles against UCLA in a winnable game last week, I think the offensive game plan should be centered around dividing and conquering Oregon State’s back end. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 12.84 yards per completion, which ranks for 35th-worst in the country.

Only one defensive back has recorded an interception this season (with the other going to true-freshman linebacker John McCartan). Safety Shawn Wilson has two career interceptions in his 19 career games, including one this season against Heisman-hopeful Dwayne Haskins Jr. Wilson has been a do-it-all type of safety for the Beavers this season. To go along with his lone interception, he has 2 pass breakups, 1.5 TFLs and the fourth-most tackles on the team with 23. The starting cornerbacks for Oregon State are at different ends of their eligibility. Kaleb Hayes is a redshirt-freshman, and Dwayne Williams is in his fifth year playing for the Beavers. Williams has not recorded an interception his 24 career games, and Hayes is in his first year playing at the collegiate level.

Poll

How many points will the Cal offense score against the Oregon State defense?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    0–14
    (15 votes)
  • 34%
    15–24
    (33 votes)
  • 36%
    25–38
    (35 votes)
  • 9%
    39–49
    (9 votes)
  • 4%
    50 or more
    (4 votes)
96 votes total Vote Now

Poll

How many points will the Oregon State defense score against the Cal offense? (PATs not included)

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    0
    (21 votes)
  • 16%
    1–6
    (15 votes)
  • 25%
    7–12
    (23 votes)
  • 19%
    13–18
    (17 votes)
  • 14%
    19 or more
    (13 votes)
89 votes total Vote Now