IMPROVING THE RUN DEFENSE is paramount in 2012 for the Beavs after last year and the linebackers are the guys who will need to put up crooked numbers if they're to succeed. So where do the Beavs stand at the ‘backer spot? For starters, one of the group showed this spring he might be that next great OSU linebacker..

Andrew Kilstrom covered all of the 15 spring practices for BF.C. We asked him to lend some of his observations about the Beavers' linebacking corps coming out of spring drills.

D.J. Welch
Welch this spring gave some credence to the thought he will be the next great linebacker at Oregon State. He's just so fast, he looks like he has safety speed at the SAM. He does get out position at times because he's still learning the defense and he will make some sophomore mistakes. But once he does learn the nuances, he will be a special player.

Feti Unga
He looks to be the clear starter at the MIK, but Robinson played well too. On the times when Unga was called to cover, he did a solid job. But even though OSU did a bang up job this spring against the running game, Unga wasn't quite the playmaker this spring that many were expecting to see. He started off his OSU career with a bang and expectations are still high for the senior-to-be. Injuries took a toll last year, and it's critical for him to stay healthy this season. One other note on his coverage skills -- in seven on seven drills, he broke up an inordinate number of passes.

Michael Doctor
Mike Riley is very high on the junior. Doctor came into the spring in great shape – he's bigger and faster. He's probably better in coverage than run stopping, something that can be said about the group as a whole. But Doctor is also really fast and should be able to use that speed at the WIL to have an impact on the running game.

Cade Cowdin
He has a good chance at playing time this season, primarily at the WIL. He could be even that fourth linebacker when the Beavs go to different packages. He doesn't have great speed but he looked good this spring overall and he has pretty good size.

Rueben Robinson
He did some good things this spring – he was most noticeable in coverage where he really stuck with his guy. Robinson is also versatile, and can play outside linebacker as well. Behind Robinson at the MIK coming out of spring look to be Josh Williams, Jaswha James, Kyle Gardner and Charlie Gilmur.

Jabral Johnson
Johnson is the backup at the SAM, clearly standing out the most this spring of the group that includes Shiloah Te'o, Will Storey and Kyle Egan.

Shaydon Akuna
Fans who have been waiting for Akuna to make that large leap forward didn't get their wish this spring. In fact, Zeke Sanders stood out more at the WIL. Still, Akuna will be a sophomore this season and has the bulk of his career ahead of him.

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