Beavers have strong defensive ends, hope to turn on heat

MANA ROSACORVALLIS — Joe Seumalo is in his eighth season as Oregon State’s defensive line coach, so he knows that the first week of training camp is a time for hope and optimism.

“We are undefeated right now, so we’re pretty good,” Seumalo says.

The Beavers should be very good at defensive end, where third-year starters Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn give them perhaps the best pair in the country.

Tackle is another matter. Last-season starters Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo have departed, leaving seniors Mana Rosa and John Braun as starters.

Braun had six tackles and a fumble recovery and Rosa four tackles, including a sack, in spot duty a year ago. They’re the only D-tackles in the program with any significant experience.

JC transfers Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau entered training camp in contention for starting jobs, but Hautau — who missed most of spring practice with a broken hand — went down with an ankle injury Monday. Two other potential JC transfers, Kyle Peko and Charlie Tuaau, remained in limbo academically, leaving the D-tackle position thin.

“It’s hard to see a teammate go down,” Rosa says. “We need as many guys as we can have. We are low on numbers, but you have to fight through it.”

Another kind of fighting got Rosa in trouble last December. He was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault following a fight outside a nightspot in Corvallis, which left him suspended for the Alamo Bowl game against Texas. After charges were dropped, coach Mike Riley reinstated the 6-3, 280-pound Rosa in February.

“That was bad,” Rosa said of his involvement in the December fracas. “I’m not happy about it. Didn’t make good decisions. Things led to other things.

“Everyone makes mistakes. I know that was a big-time mistake. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to come back and play for the team. I want to be out there with my brothers.”

Rosa should play a key role on Oregon State’s defensive line this fall, whether as a starter or rotation player. Behind Rosa, Braun, Delva and Hautau, there are sophomores Brandon Bennett-Jackson and Ali’i Robins and redshirt freshman Noke Tago, all with little or no experience.

Joe Seumalo, who likes to rotate eight or nine players in the four defensive front positions, believes he can do it again this season.

“We have numbers,” he says. “The good thing about having numbers, you can work those guys into the rotation. At the same time, they have to be reliable and know what we’re doing. It’s like with Andrew and Castro. They might not have been the best athletes, but they were the most reliable guys.”

Rosa is built much like Andrew Seumalo.

“Andrew was athletic,” says Rosa, fully recovered from January ankle surgery that kept him out of spring ball. “I’m pretty athletic myself. Andrew, Castro, Stephen Paea — they all showed me the ways and how it should be done. The experience level for me is higher this season. I’m trying to get at the level those guys were at.”

Rosa says the Beavers’ work load through the summer was unprecedented.

“I haven’t seen the team work that hard in all the years I’ve been here,” he says. “Extra stuff, big and little, all summer long.

“The goal is to go to the Rose Bowl. Another goal is to be in unison — play together as a team, bonding. If we can play as a team, we can win as a team.”

Joe Seumalo knows the OSU D-tackle position will be a work in progress.

“But that’s why we’re in this profession, to be able to develop,” he says. “I could have all veteran guys like I did my second year here, and there still is development to do. We have a bunch of guys who have been here for a while. They know how to play our defense. But we have a lot of progress to make.”

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