OSU 2013 Season in Review: Linebacker

CORVALLIS - It felt like evil sorcery was at work this past season with the Beaver linebacker corps. What with multiple personnel and position shifts throughout the year, Michael Doctor's injured foot and D.J. Alexander's injured well, everything, reasons to feel secure with the linebacker were few and far between. Yet after 13 games, a lot of questions and some musical chairs, the end result was…

Not too shabby, and you can thank junior Jabral Johnson for adding some stability in the Beaver linebacker ranks.

He had a significant impact on the OSU front seven, playing a custodial role in picking up the pieces after Doctor was injured in Week 2 and plastering over holes left at the both the SAM and WIL positions.

Johnson ended the season with the teams' second highest tackle count at 94 and his 49 solo stops were also second highest on the team.

After he moved from second-string to starter post-Hawaii, he swiftly became one of the most reliable tacklers on the Beav D, and a de facto leader when the team needed it most. Johnson also stepped up his production when the MIK ‘backer position was transitioning from a struggling sophomore in Joel Skotte to freshman upstart Rommel Mageo.

The whole ‘transitioning' aspect of the linebackers was the key factor in 2013. Oregon State entered fall camp assuming that Alexander would start at WIL, Skotte at MIK, and Doctor at SAM. Things looked settled for the orange and black.

Enter the metaphorical wrecking ball.

Alexander went down with a knee injury in mid-August and didn't make a return until Week 4. Johnson subbed in for him.

Then the Beavs lost Doctor, so Johnson moved over to SAM and freshman Caleb Saulo took over at WIL. Shortly after Alexander's return, OSU began the transition from Skotte in the middle to Mageo. Indeed, the structure of linebacker coach Trent Bray's squad changed so much in just the first few weeks of the season it was hard to keep track of week in and week out.

More importantly, the group's chemistry waned on many occasions.

Yet they powered ahead, making some big plays and providing adequate reinforcement for an inconsistent defensive line.

I'm not saying that they were perfect – far front it. But they operated reasonably well within their means, occasionally giving adversity a swift kick in the keister.

An oft-injured Alexander ended the season with 63 tackles, three TFL's and two sacks. Saulo and Mageo put up 79 tackles and six TFL collectively and along with Johnson, the group proved that sometimes speed could overwhelm an opponent where size and experience were lacking, injuries be damned.

Grade B

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