Last season, Oregon State fans became accustomed to watching Hamilcar Rashed Jr. wreak havoc in opposing backfields.
As a redshirt junior, he set school records for sacks and tackles while emerging as one of the top defensive players in the nation.
When he opted to return for his senior season and hold off on entering the NFL Draft, Oregon State fans expected an encore of his dominant 2019 campaign. But through two games this fall, Rashed Jr. has not had much of an impact for a struggling Beavers’ defense.
He has yet to record a sack or tackle for loss this season. Oregon State defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar said Wednesday that he is looking for more out of his star linebacker and Oregon State’s group of edge-rushers as a whole.
“He’s had two, in my opinion, average games for what he’s capable of.,” Tibesar said of Rashed Jr. “I think he would agree with that, that he could play better. That he can make a bigger impact on the game. We’ve got to get him playing at his highest level as fast as possible.”
Statistics don’t always tell the whole tale. It would make sense that opposing offensive coordinators would target Rashed Jr. and take extra measures to keep him out of the backfield and limit his opportunities to create big plays.
But according to Tibesar, neither of Oregon State’s first two opponents really tried to scheme Rashed Jr. out of the game.
“I can’t say I’ve noticed on tape that they’re doing anything special that they didn’t do last year,” Tibesar said. “You might get a little bit more sliding the line in his direction than maybe he got last year, especially early on in the year. But I can’t say they’re doing ‘this and this’ just to try to take him away.”
The bigger issue may be that Rashed Jr. battled a couple of nagging injuries during training camp and wasn’t fully up to speed the past couple of weeks.
Tibesar said Rashed Jr. had thumb and ankle injuries that limited him in October and that he wasn’t able to train the way he wanted during camp. It sounds as though he’s close to 100 percent now, though, and Tibesar said the last two days of practice were Rashed Jr.’s best of the season.
When talking with reporters during fall camp, Rashed Jr. said stats aren’t important to him this season; he simply wants to win football games however possible. But judging by the way Oregon State has played so far, those two things are not mutually exclusive.
Outside linebacker was supposed to be one of Oregon State’s strongest positions this season, but the group has under performed. While Rashed Jr.’s lack of production stands out on the stat sheet, the defense as a whole has generated just one sack and five tackles for loss. None of those have come from the outside linebackers.
“I told them on Sunday that we have not made the type of impact in the first two games that we need to make,” Tibesar said. “We expect those guys to be dynamic playmakers in this defense. They should have the opportunity to make tackles for losses. Sacks. Hits on the quarterbacks. Disrupting plays at the line of scrimmage. Even when they’re not making tackles, they’ve got to be disruptive. I don’t think we’ve done that yet in the first two games.”
The Beavers haven’t done a good job at limiting opposing running teams on first and second down and they often find themselves needing to buckle down in third-and-short situations. That limits the amount of “home run” plays Oregon State’s edge-rushers can seek and partially explains the lack of production.
“You’ve got to get them in those third-and-long situations where our rushers can have that edge of knowing that it’s going to be a pass situation and getting after the quarterback,” Tibesar said.
But the group just hasn't tackled very well this season regardless of down and distance. Tibesar said a glaring number of missed tackles have stood out to him while watching game tape.
He believes that the linebackers, including Rashed Jr., are capable of much, much more and that the defense can be explosive.
“I don’t think we’re rushing as well as we did last year,” Tibesar said. “I am confident that we can generate a pass rush. We’ve just got to continue to work on our individual techniques at it and being in the right places from a scheme standpoint when we do bring pressure. Making sure that we’re not getting two guys overlapping in the same gap and that type of thing.”
Jarrid Denney can be reached at 541-521-3214 or via email at Jarrid.Denney@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @jarrid_denney
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