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Oregon State Position Previews — Defense

Each week, we take a look at the various fronts of Washington's upcoming opponent. Today, we examine the defense of the Oregon State Beavers.

To beat the Beavers, Washington must first beat their first-team all-conference defensive end, Tacoma native Scott Crichton.
To beat the Beavers, Washington must first beat their first-team all-conference defensive end, Tacoma native Scott Crichton.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Players to watch
DE Scott Crichton, LB Jabral Johnson, S Tyrequek Zimmerman, CB Rashaad Reynolds

Notable injuries/absences
DT John Braun (Questionable—shoulder), LB Michael Doctor (Out—foot), DT Siale Hautau (Questionable—triceps)

Analysis
It would be difficult to engineer a more quintessential middle-of-the-road defense than Oregon State's: The Beavers rank ninth in scoring defense, sixth in rushing defense, and seventh in passing defense and total defense. They're not coming into this game on a particularly hot hand, either, having lost their last three games and giving up 194 rushing yards per game and nine touchdowns on the ground in the process. All signs point toward this being a prime matchup for Bishop Sankey to earn his usual diet of 150 or so yards and one or two touchdowns.

If the Beavers are to keep that scenario from becoming a reality, they'll need junior defensive end Scott Crichton to turn in a characteristically strong performance. Crichton was famously not recruited by UW while attending Tacoma's Foss High School, prompting him last season to exclaim in an interview, "Man, I HATE U-dub." Last year, Crichton established himself as a first-team all-conference defensive end, and is Oregon State's leader in both tackles for loss (14.0) and sacks (6.5) by healthy margins. If Keith Price is unable to play and Cyler Miles makes his first start, OSU will rely largely on Crichton's game breaking skills to put heretofore unexperienced pressure on the redshirt freshman.

In his first season as a starter, Jabral Johnson has established himself as a steady presence at outside linebacker, as his 71 tackles ranks second on the team. He's hardly the kind of player that an offensive coordinator has to scheme around, though, and it's likely that the linebacking corps represents the weakest unit of the Beaver defense.

The secondary is where this defense really shines, as one might expect of players who were previously coached by Keith Heyward. They've had a ridiculous three interceptions returned for touchdowns this year, tied for fifth in the nation, and their starting cornerbacks—Rashaad Reynolds and Steven Nelson—both have five picks on the year. And lest think that they can work around those players by throwing over the middle of the field, they'll find that they have to contend with safeties Tyrequek Zimmerman (who leads the team in tackles, with 71) and Ryan Murphy (who has snagged three interceptions of his own).

On the special teams front, punter Keith Kostol is keeping pace with his performance in 2012 by averaging 41.8 yards per kick this year. Their opponents average a slightly-worse-than-mediocre 7.27 yards per return, though, which should give hope to Husky fans who want to see the Dawgs finally break a return open for a touchdown without getting a penalty thrown in the process. (Though let's be real—this is the Pac-12, and that's probably not going to happen. Guy breaks free on a return? Must have been holding somewhere during the play!) On kickoffs, Trevor Romaine has gotten touchbacks on just 38.7 percent of his attempts; however, the Beavers are allowing just 21.1 yards per return, and have given up only one return for 40 yards or more.

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As always, thanks to College Football StatisticsESPN and USA Today's College Football Injury Report for the relevant data that went into this article. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking below.

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