Spring preview '07 - Secondary

CB Coye Francies

Another defensive position where Oregon State struggled with two years ago is now a strength as three of four starters return in the secondary. Head coach Mike Riley likes what he sees calling the secondary the best he has had during his tenure in Corvallis.

- Secondary -

 

- The good -

Another defensive position where Oregon State struggled with two years ago is now a strength as three of four starters return in the secondary. Head coach Mike Riley likes what he sees calling the secondary the best he has had during his tenure in Corvallis.

The cornerbacks are the most experienced of the secondary with Keenan Lewis, Brandon Hughes and Coye Francies all returning after seeing significant action in 2006.

Despite being a junior, Lewis has the second most starts on the defense with 24, one behind defensive end Jeff Van Orsow. In 14 games Lewis had 22 tackles, including one sack, and deflected eight passes, tops among the returning players.

Injuries and cramps have plagued Lewis' career as he has struggled to stay healthy for an entire season. He missed most of the Washington and Arizona games after bruising his shoulder in Seattle and often has to leave a game after cramping up.

But, Lewis is one of the top corners on the team with good range and those long arms that help him to knock down passes. He grew by leaps and bounds from a freshman to a sophomore and will do the same from a sophomore to a junior.

Brandon Hughes, who missed the first two games of the year with a knee injury, mans the right side where he tallied 35 tackles and four pass breakups in 12 games.

Hughes is often picked on by opposing teams and the hometown crowd, but he, just like Lewis, is still young and learning. With another year of experience under his belt, look for Hughes to put it together and turn in two solid years at corner.

Backing up both Lewis and Hughes is Coye Francies who had a big year making a reputation for himself as a physical player. He played in all 14 games, starting the first two in place of Hughes and the game in Tucson in place of Lewis, grabbing 39 tackles, tops among the corners, along with two sacks and one interception.

His interception against Stanford was the first by a Beaver cornerback in almost two years. Francies is one of the hardest hitters on the team as he forced four fumbles, tying OSU's single season record.

Sophomores Tim Clark and Patrick Henderson will have to make their marks on special teams as Lewis, Hughes and Francies give the Beavers a solid rotation at corner.

Thanks to the nickel package the outlook at safety looks much better than it could have been. Daniel Drayton and Bryan Payton received lots of repetitions as the nickel backs giving them confidence and experience heading into this year.

Payton filled in for Afalava after he suffered a concussion against Washington State and he slowly worked his way back into the lineup. Payton made the most of the opportunity as he recorded at least five tackles in five of the last eight games while grabbing interceptions in back to back games against USC and Arizona State.

He finished with 50 tackles, tops among the returning safeties, and two interceptions along with three pass breakups. Drayton recorded 21 tackles and two interceptions in 14 games while also forcing three fumbles, good for second on the team.

Junior Al Afalava is the veteran of the defensive backfield with 13 career starts and the experience of playing with Sabby Piscitelli. He missed the Washington game with a concussion and eventually won the starting spot back in the game against Stanford. He had 35 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups in 13 games.

Redshirt freshman Suaesi Tuimaunei and James Dockery are ready to make their marks, but will first have to do it on special teams. Tuimaunei is a big time hitter who could become a special teams standout. Dockery is a wiry athlete, but has speed and confidence.

Greg Laybourn had a fantastic year on special teams with nine tackles. Gerard Lawson has been moved from cornerback to safety where he will get his shot in the nickel package.

 

- The bad -

Sabby Piscitelli will not only will be missed for his athletic ability, but also for his leadership skills. Piscitelli earned first team All-Pac-10 honors as a senior while recording 15 career interceptions, the second most in school history.

He settled into his role nicely as a senior, supporting his teammates, while playing in position and lending his advice in tight situations. Senior leadership is something is almost always undervalued by fans.

 

- The question -

Who will step up and take Piscitelli's place as the leader of the defensive backfield?

 

- Riley says -

Overall - "The secondary, we lose Sabby which is a tough loss, Sabby left a great mark as a player at Oregon State. I really like the whole makeup of the entire secondary, from top to bottom it might be the best we have had in my tenure at Oregon State."

On the cornerbacks - "I feel very, very good about the cornerback positions. Two years ago we were playing true freshmen in this area, now we have four experienced players who can play cover man. A lot of the success we have on defense is due to the experience and depth we have created at the cornerback spots."

On the safeties - "We have speed and are very athletic at the safety positions. We have many young safeties – like Daniel Drayton, Bryan Payton – and James Dockery will make his mark."

 

- BF.com says -

Two battles that won't get a lot of press, but will be very interesting to watch are at cornerback and safety. Francies and Payton are the designated backups, but arguably out played the current starters last year.

When Francies and Payton are on the field, good things happen. This creates an interesting situation for the coaches as they don't want to keep Francies or Payton off of the field, but they don't want to keep Hughes and Afalava off of the field either.

The competition should be fierce and at a high level as all have plenty of experience and know what is required of them. It should be fun to watch.

 

- Keep your eye on -

Bryan Payton. After his performance last year it is going to be really hard to keep him out of the starting lineup. He had an excellent spring and fall camp in ‘06 and is poised to have another great spring practice. Bottom line – he is a playmaker.

 

- The roster -

Right Cornerback
JR Brandon Hughes (5-11, 174) – started 12 games…notched 35 tackles and four pass breakups…will be pushed by Francies for starting spot.

SR Coye Francies (6-1, 177) – big, physical player who loves getting dirty…39 tackles, tops among the cornerbacks…one interception and five pass breakups…four forced fumbles, ties an OSU record…will push for starting spot.

SO Patrick Henderson (5-10, 182) – will make his mark on special teams.


Left Cornerback
JR Keenan Lewis (6-1, 194) – one of the emotional leaders on defense…lanky…eight pass deflections, tops among returning players…22 tackles and one sack.

SR Gerard Lawson (5-11, 192) – 18 tackles, primarily on special teams as a gunner…fast…has trouble playing cornerback…could play cornerback or move to safety and play the nickel back.

SO Tim Clark (6-0, 175) – will have to make his mark on special teams…recorded two tackles in 10 games.


Strong Safety
SR Daniel Drayton (5-10, 204) – 21 tackles, including one sack…two interceptions…three forced fumbles…primarily played as the nickel back in 2006.

RFR Suaesi Tuimaunei (6-2, 190) – a hard hitter who doesn't mind sacrificing his body…could become a special teams star.

JR Greg Laybourn (5-10, 201) – tough and smart…a special teams standout

SO Austin Hall (5-10, 191) – walk on who played on special teams last year.


Free Safety
JR Al Afalava (5-11, 198) – one of the hardest hitters on the team, if not the hardest…missed Washington game with a concussion…35 tackles and one interception…three pass breakups

JR Bryan Payton (6-2, 211) – physical, long and lanky…good closing speed…50 tackles, tops among the safeties…two interceptions…three pass breakups…will push for starting spot.

SR Gerard Lawson (5-11, 192) – 18 tackles, primarily on special teams as a gunner…fast…has trouble playing cornerback…could play cornerback or move to safety and play the nickel back.

RFR James Dockery (6-1, 168) – an excellent athlete who will get his chance to impress on special teams.

 

- Secondary -

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