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OSUs defensive line will be plenty deep this fall

Corvallis Ñ Item: Oregon State loses two key defensive linemen Ñ starter Eric Manning and 315-pound reserve James Lee Ñ to the NFL. A third, junior end Noah Happe, has flunked out of school and has applied for NFL supplemental draft status.

The conjecture: Even so, the Beavers will be plenty competitive on the defensive line next fall.

Manning, Lee and Happe will be missed when training camp opens Aug. 4, but the OSU front four will be equipped with plenty of talent and depth next season.

'We lose three good players, but as a whole we should be just as good or better,' says junior end Bill Swancutt, who earned honorable mention on last year's Pacific-10 Conference all-star team.

Swancutt and tackle Dwan Edwards, who will be a senior, are the defensive line's honors candidates.

There may not be a better athlete on a Pac-10 defensive line than Swancutt. The former three-sport (football, basketball, baseball) star at Sprague High is 6-4 and 260, benches 365 pounds and runs like a river. He tied the school record for sacks (11 1/2) and tackles for loss (21) last season.

'I like Swannie a lot,' Oregon State coach Mike Riley says. 'There is a guy with a high motor. He comes low and hard off the edge.'

The 6-3, 305-pound Edwards, out of Columbus, Mont., made Pac-10 honorable mention as a junior last year.

'He was our most physically dominating defensive lineman during spring ball,' Riley says. 'He is a powerful player who carries his 300 pounds very well.'

Edwards, who will be entering his third season as a starter, eats up plenty of offensive linemen with each snap.

'Dwan is just spectacular in there,' defensive end Dan Rothwell says. 'I can't say enough about that guy. He is our anchor on the inside.'

Swancutt and Edwards will have enough help that it may become the deepest defensive line in school history, with seven players expected to earn rotation time.

Three players should earn plenty of time at end Ñ Swancutt and Rothwell as starters and Jayson-Jean Baptiste as the main reserve on both sides.

Rothwell, a 6-7, 260-pound West Linn product, was projected to be a starter as a junior last season before suffering a knee injury the last day of fall camp. He missed the entire season but participated in spring ball and says he is ready to go.

'I can't tell you how excited I am to be back playing,' he says. 'I am going to get back to playing like I was before I got hurt, which was the best in my career. It was like a light went on in my head, and I started to play a whole different game.'

Baptiste, a speedy 6-3, 245-pound senior-to-be, saw extensive playing time last season and should be a major factor again in the fall.

Opposite Edwards at tackle will be Henry Anderson or Alvin Smith, both sophomores.

The 6-3, 290-pound Anderson would have been Edwards' backup a year ago but broke his hand and redshirted. The Oakland, Calif., native will battle for the starting job with Smith, a 6-2, 310-pound transfer from Tulane who also redshirted.

'They both had good springs,' Riley says. 'That was encouraging. We will need both of them to play, and it has been a pretty darn good competition between the two of them.'

Swancutt figures the depth on the defensive line will pay off.

'It is such a physical game for us up front,' Swancutt says. 'You have to grind things out at times. It's nice having backups who can come in early to give the starters a blow and help them stay fresh for the fourth quarter.'

Swancutt says he will try to expand on his unique ability to give offensive linemen different looks.

'I can change up the type of game I throw at them,' he says. 'Sometimes I can play physical now, because I have more strength than when I came in as a freshman. There are times I will use the bull rush. Other times I will go the finesse route and use my athleticism with a spin move or other things. You want to throw the blocker off guard and keep him guessing.'

Rothwell and Swancutt say their first impressions of the new coaching staff have been positive. Linebacker coach Greg Newhouse was retained and moved over to coach the defensive line.

'At first I was skeptical, because you don't know what the change is going to be like,' Swancutt says. 'Once I got to know coach Riley and coach (defensive coordinator Mark) Banker, I felt a lot better. I think coach Newhouse is going to be really good for our group.'

Riley is counting on it. He also is counting on production for the defensive men up front.

'The line should be a stable factor for us Ñ something we can count on, with some depth,' Riley says.

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