Linebacker Preview

While the biggest concerns the Beavers have are on offense, the defensive positions are stocked with talent and experience. This is true of the OSU linebackers who return two players with all-league honors and one player with plenty of playing experience.

When talking about Oregon State linebackers, the first name that comes to find is the intense, emotionally charged Richard Siegler (6-3, 225). He is without a doubt the team's emotional and physical leader. During spring practice he was constantly talking trash to the Beaver offense and on one occasion was told to shut up by Dennis Erickson because of his incessant jabbering.

Siegler is the kind of player you love to have on your team and hate him if he is on the other. He gives 150% every down and loves to celebrate after making a defensive play. Siegler may be responsible for starting the chest bump that is used by both offensive and defensive players after making great plays.

No other player can produce the kind of excitement Siegler can when he is on the field. Fifty-one has a way of making plays that give the team a boost. And the most exciting aspect about Siegler is that he will be in Corvallis for two more years.

During Siegler's sophomore season, he set a school record with 81 defensive points and 7 tackles for loss against Arizona State. Siegler is on target to become one of the best linebackers in Oregon State football history. He has started all 23 games of his college football career.

Siegler will be the most important player for the Beavers on defense because of his leadership role and his talent. He should be a strong candidate for all-league honors, although there is healthy competition in the league at his position, from Arizona's Lance Briggs, Washington's Ben Mahdavi, Oregon's Kevin Mitchell, and fellow Beaver Nick Barnett.

Senior Nick Barnett (6-2, 221) will again be the starter at the strong linebacker position for the 2002 football squad. The strong backer lines up opposite of the tight end and is often responsible for pass coverage. Barnett started all 11 games in 2001 and was outstanding. He plays with a lot of passion and is often seen celebrating with Siegler after a great play.

Forty-two will also be up for post-season honors in 2002. Barnett filled in nicely in 2000 when James Allen, who is with the New Orleans Saints, was suffering from back problems.

The other starting linebacker spot will be filled by Erik Tuma (6-1, 225). Many Beaver fans are skeptical of Tuma's ability to play the linebacker position, but Tuma has been in the program for a few years and had the opportunity to learn the system. He won't be a star at his position, but he is fundamentally sound and will be a good fit with the rest of the unit.

Tuma had a great spring where he showed he has the ability to make the big hit and read the defense. In the past, Tuma has struggled, but it was mostly due to the lack of playing time. Tuma should improve as the year progresses and is primed for a big year.

Most of the experience lies with the starters. Siegler, Barnett, and Tuma have all seen plenty of playing time. Beyond the "big 3", there is a lack of experience, but certainly not talent.

Many of the young Beaver linebackers have a chance to become All-Pac10 players in the years to come. Redshirt sophomore, Jonathon Pollard (6-1, 231) leads the list, but he'll have to move to another position to get any playing time, since he's sitting behind Siegler. Pollard showed the same emotional intensity that Siegler exhibits and could become the team's defensive leader in the near future. It will be a treat to see Pollard and Siegler in the lineup together.

Seth Lacey (6-1, 223) is an incredible athlete who came to OSU as a running back but switched to defense. He will make an impact before he leaves. Jason Jacobs (6-2, 209), Trent Bray (6-1, 231), Jason Lowe (6-2, 220), and Chaz Scott (6-1, 220) will all have the opportunity to compete for key reserve positions and a chance to get in the rotation.

Dennis Erickson and his staff didn't feel linebacker was a strong need when they recruited this year, as they only signed one player, Tone Taupule (6-2, 200) from Long Beach, CA. But, it is possible we will see players convert to the LB position at a later time from the secondary. While at Jordan High School Tone was known as a big hitter and will most likely redshirt because of the depth at linebacker position.

The linebackers will be once again be one of OSU's strengths. The defense, anchored by the linebacking squad, will carry the team as Derek Anderson adjusts to starting in the Pac-10.

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