SPRING: Will LBs be better than forecast?

CORVALLIS–Two practices into spring drills, it's time to take a closer look at the linebackers. The group caught more than their fair share of blame for OSU's 5-7 mark in 2010, but the Beavs will miss the combination of Keith Pankey and Dwight Roberson. Can OSU replace that experience, play and leadership? And can the LBs actually be better than in '10, despite replacing two of three starters?

Well, OSU does have senior Cameron Collins coming back and my opinion is that is far more than a good start, that's an improvement.

Collins won't be eased into the linebacking role as he was last year, coming over from the safety position. In part to his enormous size -- he checked in this spring at 6-2, 244 pounds -- the coaching staff decided LB is a better fit, and they appear to be right.

In 12 games Collins had 39 tackles, and his output left many Beaver faithful wondering why he wasn't playing more. With a year under his belt and heading into his last season, Collins is one of my picks to have a stellar season.

Playing alongside Collins this spring, two returning players who saw significant time in 2010 -- junior MIK Rueben Robinson and sophomore OLB Michael Doctor. Robinson saw more playing time than did Doctor but both made impact plays when they were on the field. At the MIK, Robinson shared starting time with junior Tony Wilson in 2010. Look for those two to go at it once again vying for playing time. Michael Bibbee, a second year frosh could also be in the mix.

Getting some playing time this year as well will be junior Feti Unga – he's listed at middle linebacker on the spring prospectus. Unga (6-1, 244) was one half of a twin combination at OSU but his brother Uani Unga transferred to BYU this offseason.

Shaydon Akuna (6-0, 229) is the young gun everyone will be watching this spring. Big things are expected of the second year freshman following a stellar prep career in Hawaii. He's an outside ‘backer, as is freshman Donnell Welch, who could be a darkhorse this spring.

Add it all up and the LB position will be deeper and has more experience than some realize.

There's also a new position coach, with Mark Banker coming over from safeties to mentor the linebackers this spring. And that is a storyline well worth watching this spring.

A prediction? With a good crop of underclassmen, and some juniors and seniors in the mix, Beaver Nation will like this group -- and they'll ably replace the holes left from the combination like Pankey and Roberson and then some.

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