Corvallis, Ore. -- Oregon State football's Spring Game takes place on Saturday, April 20th, giving Beaver fans an inside look at the progress being made in year 2 of the Jonathan Smith era. Of note will be the OSU defense, one of the worst units in Division I FBS football last season statistically, and how they have developed over winter workouts and spring practices.
As coaches try to help rebuild a culture that suffered under former head coach Gary Andersen, continuity has played a big role in an added energy around practice. It also helps when the staff returns every single coach for the second straight year.
"This time last year, we had only known these guys for a few months and for the most part I didn't know everybody on the team," jokes defensive line coach Legi Suiaunoa. "In terms of the culture is that we wanted to set, we came here because we believe in Coach Smith's idea of what a culture is supposed to look like."
Sophomore defensive tackle Isaac Hodgins is heading into his second season with the Beavers having never faced the problem of a staff turnover. His position coach, Suiaunoa, is back working with him, as his the man in charge of executing the vision for what Oregon State football wants to be: Jonathan Smith.
"It's comforting having the same coaching staff," Hodgins explains. "I think the biggest thing in our d-line room is sprinting to the ball every play. That's a big part of our culture."
The defensive line was part of a unit that gave up 537 yards and 45 points per game in 2018. While returning a host of starters, including Hodgins who played in all 12 games last season, the Beavers have also gotten challenged by some early enrolled freshman and returning depth players that are challenging for a starting role.
"I feel good about them," says Suiaunoa. "Now in terms of which order, just yet, we got spring ball, I like where we're at in spring, it's a good problem to have. It's a good problem when guys come out everyday where they know they have to battle for a starting role."
Being tested against an Oregon State offense that was a fairly solid unit in the Pac-12 last season also helps. The Beavers averaged 155 rush yards per game, while running back Jermar Jefferson set the OSU freshman single season rushing record. He, along with Artavis Pierce and B.J. Baylor, have been exactly the players to provide a litmus test to the Beavs defensive line.
"We're making plays now," Hodgins says. "We're making big plays for loss. Yesterday in our play period, they got 11 yards on 5 plays. We're getting lots of takeaways so that's a big improvement right there."
The Beavers will start their Spring Game at 11 a.m. at Reser Stadium.
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