Post spring look: Linebackers

While the Linebacker U tag may be a little far fetched when comparing Oregon State to Penn State or Miami, it is not completely out of the question. Despite several great Beaver linebackers never making it in professional football or garnering national attention they still turned in solid collegiate careers.

Depth chart beginning of April:

WLB: Joey LaRocque, Isaiah Cook, Eric Moala, Cody Heller
MLB:
Alan Darlin, Bryant Cornell, Eddie Stamm, Slade Norris
SLB:
Derrick Doggett, Dennis Christopher, Casey Noack, Adam Mobley

 

Depth chart beginning of April:

WLB: Joey LaRocque, Isaiah Cook, Eric Moala, Cody Heller
MLB:
Alan Darlin, Bryant Cornell, Mike Smith, Eddie Stamm, Slade Norris
SLB:
Derrick Doggett, Dennis Christopher, Casey Noack, Adam Mobley

 

Injuries:
  • Eddie Stamm sat out the entire month rehabbing his leg

 

Overview:

While the Linebacker U tag may be a little far fetched when comparing Oregon State to Penn State or Miami, it is not completely out of the question. Despite several great Beaver linebackers never making it in professional football or garnering national attention they still turned in solid collegiate careers.

From Brian Jones to Darnell Robinson to Richard Seigler the strong play of the orange and black linebackers have anchored the defense for years. With two spots to fill there was some worry, but after spring ball the concern died down as the unit looks two deep across the board.

One of the biggest concerns was at middle linebacker. Virtually zero game experience is on the roster with Alan Darlin and Bryant Cornell. But before practice even started the coaches said there was no need to worry with Darlin in the middle. Both Darlin and Cornell were standout special teams standouts a year ago and their hard work and hustle translates well into a starting and backup role.

Both display a strong knowledge of the defense and their hard hits are something offenses will respect. A large concern was Darlin's speed and while he is no sprinter he plays game fast. His thick build also allows him to run over blockers plugging up a hole or disrupting the pocket. Cornell also received some of the coaches praise for his intense play but will have to wait to star.

Outside linebacker Joey LaRocque is the first transfer to start spring practice atop the depth chart since Mike Riley has been head coach in Corvallis. LaRocque received plenty of instruction from coach Greg Newhouse as he learned the system. He pays attention to the coaches, learns fast and works hard. Three qualities that will take him far in his first year of Pac-10 ball. Once he gets the defense down LaRocque will play faster and start to make his presence felt.

One of the nastiest hitters on the team Isaiah Cook sits behind LaRocque. Cook will see plenty of time behind LaRocque but will make his mark on special teams.

Junior Derrick Doggett turned in one of the better performances by a linebacker. He is the most experienced player on the squad and thus his role and knowledge of the defense is better than many of the linebackers. Doggett looked superb in coverage using his lanky frame to his advantage. He put himself in position to makes plays and with the additional 10 pounds he added in the off season he can bring the lumber as well.

Backing up Doggett is Dennis Christopher who, like Cook, will see significant time as a backup player but will have to make his mark on special teams.

A host of walk-ons sit behind the top two players at each spot. Invited walk-on Michael Smith from Lake Oswego High played the best with his hard-nosed play in the middle.

Andy Darkins sat out the entire month due to bicep surgery in April. The surgery was a success and depending on how his injury heals he could return or retire from the gridiron.

The unit may be missing pure speed though. But there is help is coming in the fall and the current players are still developing. Doggett certainly played faster than last year while LaRocque is due to play faster once he gets settled in. Cook and Christopher also have the feet to get in the backfield. The real difference maker could be Danzel Issac who has 4.45 speed. But don't expect Issac to be given a spot just because he is fast. He must earn it.

The squad is two deep across the board which allows the entire freshman class to redshirt. This is beneficial to the future of the linebackers and defensive line as some of them may be asked to put their hand down.

 

Top spring performer:

Derrick Doggett. After getting beat out by Darkins a year ago Doggett added some muscle and increased his knowledge of the defense. He is by far the best linebacker at defending the pass and will be looked at to be one of the leaders.

 

LB spring summary in three sentences or less:

The starters seem to be set with LaRocque, Darlin and Doggett. Second stringers proved that they can play too. Look for improved play in the fall as the unit jells and gets comfortable with the schemes.

 

Notable quotes:

Mike Riley - "I think Doggett is doing a good job of picking up his game. He's had the most experience (starting five games last season) and he shows that. Alan Darlin is being really intense in the middle. Joey LaRocque is catching on fast. But besides those guys there are a lot good athletes doing a good job, getting better."

Mark Banker on LaRocque - “I told Joey one of the biggest reasons I wanted him was he is emotionally mature. He can lend us leadership both on and off the field. That’s something we felt we needed with a young group of linebackers. The bonus is, he’s also a very good player. More than anything, Joey is kind of in the mold of a Trent Bray, an Ellison, a Richard Seigler. They all have football intelligence. Their reactions are fast, and they play fast.”

Derrick Doggett - "I'm just as quick. I think I will be hitting harder. I'm a lot stronger, too."

 

Who's coming in the fall:

 

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