Fall Camp Preview - Linebackers

Oregon State can really solidify itself as one of the top linebacking schools on the west coast this year as they are two deep, almost three deep, at every spot. 

Depth chart beginning of April:

WLB: Joey LaRocque (SR), Isaiah Cook (JR), Dwight Roberson (RFR), Keo Camat (RFR)

MLB: Alan Darlin (SR), Bryant Cornell (JR), Keaton Kristick (SO), Walker Vave (FR)

SLB: Derrick Doggett (SR), Dennis Christopher (JR), Eric Moala Liava'a (JR)


Depth chart start of August:

WLB: Joey LaRocque (SR), Isaiah Cook (JR), Dwight Roberson (RFR), Keo Camat (RFR)

MLB: Alan Darlin (SR), Bryant Cornell (JR), Walker Vave (FR)

SLB: Derrick Doggett (SR), Keaton Kristick (SO), Dennis Christopher (JR), Eric Moala Liava'a (JR)


  • Derrick Doggett missed most of the spring with back spasms.
  • Alan Darlin sat out two scrimmages with a stinger in his shoulder.



Oregon State can really solidify itself as one of the top linebacking schools on the west coast this year as they are two deep, almost three deep, at every spot. 

There wasn't much movement on the depth charts from the beginning to the end of the month as the younger players received the bulk of the repetitions with the veterans passing on their knowledge while resting their various aches and pains.

The starting three is set with Joey LaRocque, Alan Darlin and Derrick Doggett who combined for 257 tackles, including 33.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks last year. That's 46.7-percent of the team's tackles, 31.3-percent of the team's TFLs and 22.3-percent of the team's sacks.

As expected LaRocque turned in a quite, blue collar 15-practices as he picked off a pass in the first scrimmage. He led the team in tackles with 98 stops last year and really started to settled into his role midway through the season. LaRocque recorded at least seven tackles in the last 10 games of the year while recording 10 twice during the same time frame.

The California native had his best game of the year in Sun Bowl against Missouri as he tallied nine tackles, including a season high 3.5 for loss. He is very similar to former Beaver great Trent Bray in that he doesn't have blazing speed, but has a knack for being around the ball. Look for LaRocque to once again led the team in tackles while topping the century mark.

Darlin sat out two scrimmages to heal his shoulder, but will once again be a force to reckon with in the middle. He isn't fast, but is explosive and has great game speed. His thick body allows him to plug up holes slowing down the running game - rarely is he knocked backwards.

In the first five of seven games Darlin grabbed at least seven tackles, including at least one sack in three straight games, before being slowed down by a pinched nerve in his shoulder which forced him out of the Hawaii game. It is a similar injury that made him sit during April.

At the end of the year Darlin's stats showed he did a little bit of everything finishing fourth in total tackles (72), second in tackles for loss (12.5), second in sacks (5.5) and first in recovered fumbles (4), matching a school record. Darlin is expected to be fully healed for fall camp.

Perhaps the best linebacker on the team is Doggett who missed the entire month resting his back. Doggett has a deadly blend of speed and power as he led the team in tackles for loss with 14.5 while recording 87 tackles, good for second on the squad.

Doggett excels against passing teams as he recorded 12 tackles against Boise State and 13 against Hawaii. He is one of the fastest players on the team as he took two interceptions for touchdowns. He was a second team All-Pac-10 selection and should once again be named to a postseason squad. Doggett is expected to be fully healed for fall camp.

With Doggett out of the lineup Keaton Kristick, the next great linebacker at Oregon State, moved from third string middle linebacker to starting strong side linebacker where he dominated.  He hits like a truck, has good speed and anticipation and is ready for prime time. 

Kristick is the Andy Levitre of the linebackers as he can play inside or outside equally as well.  He also brings a little bit of attitude to the turf. His long arms create problems for quarterbacks and receivers as his length helps him make up ground quickly.

With three excellent linebackers in front of him it is hard to get Kristick on the field, but look for him to get plenty of playing time, either on the outside or inside, as the coaches keep an eye on the future. Kristick is a sure future All-Pac-10 player and definitely an athlete to keep your eye on next season.

Dennis Christopher and Eric Moala Liava'a both moved down a spot on the strong side with the emergence of Kristick.  Both are veteran backups who are valuable special teams members though.  Christopher, who has good speed, picked off a pass in the first scrimmage.

Middle linebacker Bryant Cornell continued to play at a high level as he forced and returned a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown in the spring game.  Similar to Darlin and LaRocque, Cornell has a high football IQ and puts himself in the right place at the right time. 

There is little drop off when Cornell is in the game giving the team two very solid, smart options in the middle of the field.

Walker Vave participated in his first practice since returning from his mission.  The goal for Vave is to get back in shape and then the coaches will evaluate where he is at in the fall.

Veteran backup Isaiah Cook has his work cut out for him with redshirt freshman Dwight Roberson on his tail at the weak side.  Cook has the advantage of playing in the system for several years, but Roberson is a physical specimen with a dangerous mix of speed and brawn. 

Both will be contributors on special teams and don't be surprised to see Roberson getting playing time over Cook as the season progresses.

Keo Camat, another underclassman whom the coaches are excited about, is in the mix on the weak side as well.  He will have to wait a year though before competing for playing time. He will try to make his mark on special teams and compete for a starting spot in 2008.


Weaknesses: Strengths:
  • Overall unit speed
  • Veterans at every position
  • Depth at every position
  • Several players with high football IQs


Returning tackler: Joey LaRocque (98)

Returning sack leader: Alan Darlin (5.5)

Returning pass deflector: Derrick Doggett (2)

Returning interception leader: Derrick Doggett (3)

Returning fumble recovery leader: Alan Darlin (4)

Returning fumbles forced leader: Derrick Doggett, Bryant Cornell, Keaton Kristick (1)

* Click on picture to open statistics in a new window.


Top spring performer:

Keaton Kristick.  With Doggett out of the lineup it was time for Kristick to take the bull by the horns and he didn't disappoint. 

He adapted well moving from the inside to the outside showing he could play both positions equally as well.  It is only a matter of time before Kristick is making all-conference teams.


LB spring summary in three sentences or less:

The veterans healed up as the underclassman received the bulk of the repetitions.  Kristick impressed as Roberson, Cook and Christopher all fight for playing time.  Is this the best linebacking group in school history?


Notable quotes:

Mike Riley on Darlin – “Alan Darlin has been waiting to take this center stage. He’s always been a really good player, with a little bit of past with injuries we hope to get him clean through to fall camp and into the season. I expect him to be a leader and a very productive player.”


Who's coming in the fall:

Will Darkins (case file), Keith Pankey (case file), and  David Paaluhi III (case file).

With the team almost three deep at every spot, look for all of the freshman to redshirt.  Out of the four linebackers, the coaches are really excited about Three Rivers Defensive Player of the Year Will Darkins, the brother of former Beaver Andy Darkins, who is a tireless worker with football smarts.

Anthony Watkins (case file) will grayshirt.


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