Breaking Down Oregon State's Restructured Secondary After Jordan Poyer Loss
A 20.6-point-per-game defensive yield and plus-eight turnover margin were foundations for the Oregon State Beavers' bounce-back, 9-4 finish in 2012. Central to both statistics was the play of senior cornerback Jordan Poyer, a consensus All-American and the nation's second-most-prolific interceptor of passes.
Beavers head coach Mike Riley and defensive coordinator Mark Banker have turned to a committee to replace Poyer's production in a restructured secondary.
The latest OSU depth chart, released on Tuesday in preparation for Saturday's matchup with Eastern Washington, offers no surprise at right cornerback. All-conference honoree Rashaad Reynolds continues to man the position opposite where Poyer did his damage in three years as a starter.
That left side now features a duo in senior Sean Martin and junior college transfer Steven Nelson. The two competed for Poyer's old job throughout preseason workouts, but OSU's best play could be working each in prominently.
Nelson told Kevin Hampton of The Register-Guard that there was "a sense of urgency" to replace Poyer—understandable, considering that he essentially was the positive turnover differential. Poyer picked off seven passes and forced a fumble in 2012.
Martin was an important contributor to last year's defense, coming on to intercept two passes and break up three more. His veteran experience is too invaluable not to utilize. Likewise, Nelson is too talented not to showcase.
Thus, the pair appears with the ominous "OR" between their names on the depth chart. But OSU's use of the depth chart "OR" is less indicative of a dilemma and more of enviable options.
The players surrounding Martin and Nelson are solid. Along with Reynolds, the Beavers bring back safeties Tyrequek Zimmerman and Ryan Murphy, who combined for 130 tackles and six broken-up passes in 2012.
The secondary has a solid base, but replicating last season's turnover creation is as much about the line's progression as it is Martin or Nelson stepping up.
"[The OSU coaches] have to...really look at the interior of our defense," Riley said at July's Pac-12 media day. We lost our middle linebacker, two defensive tackles."
Mana Rosa and John Braun will initially take on those interior line spots that were critical to the production of the Beavers secondary. OSU stifled opponents at the line, allowing under four yards per rush, thus forcing the ball into the air.
That's where Poyer and his defensive back cohorts made their bones and the facet of the game from which the 2013 Beavers can build a viable Pac-12 contender.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter @kensing45.
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