OSU takes hit at LB, opportunity awaits youth

OREGON STATE's LINEBACKER corps have taken a second, considerable hit heading into spring football. Middle linebacker David Pa'aluhi III has withdrawn from school to join the United States Armed Forces, head man Mike Riley announced Thursday.

If you're a glass half-full type, you're excited about the younger players who now have a chance to shine this spring. If you're a glass half-empty sort, you're concerned about a linebacker corps this spring that is suddenly missing two expected starters.

Keith Pankey, who shared about equal reps with Dwight Roberson at the weakside linebacker position (opposite where the TE lines up) most of the past two seasons, will miss the spring following surgery to repair an Achilles tendon injured a few weeks ago. Optimists are eyeing a possible return for Pankey before the season gets underway in September.

A month ago, with SLB Keaton Kristick having graduated, the starting linebackers this spring in Corvallis looked to be a veteran group with Pankey, Roberson and Pa'aluhi ready to strap it up. Now, only Roberson will take the field for the 15-session spring practice.

DEPTH CHARTS AREN'T necessarily a rock-solid indicator of who would step in when a starter becomes unavailable, but listed at middle linebacker behind Pa'aluhi on OSU's final depth chart of the 2009 season was Walker Vave, who will be a senior when the 2010 campaign gets underway.

Vave looks the part at 6-2, 240, but has just four career tackles. Listed behind Vave on last season's final depth chart was Rueben Robinson, a sophomore-to-be. Robinson had 12 tackles in '09, but is listed at 209 pounds on the OSU roster and would appear best suited to one of the outside linebacker spots.

Before he injured his ACL prior to the start of the season, Tony Wilson was pegged to be Pa'aluhi's backup at middle linebacker last year. Back in December, Wilson, (6-1, 231), was doing well enough coming off surgery that Riley even considered playing him in the Beavs' bowl game.

One thing seems apparent -- a lot of youngsters are going to get a lot of reps this spring at various linebacker positions.

In addition to those mentioned above, keep an eye out for Keo Camat, Devin Unga and Michael Doctor, the latter having enrolled in January. Doctor was listed at 203 pounds as of Jan. 22 but he has impressive speed and lateral quickness.

As BF.C noted earlier this week in an article surrounding some questions surrounding the spring, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Beaver coaches limit Roberson's snaps, full contact and otherwise -- they already know what he can do. And the spring's value might well be best spent in getting the youth some turns.

PA'ALUHII, FROM Waianae, Hawai'i, has a wife and child. He started all 13 games at middle linebacker this past season as a sophomore and was named Pac-10 honorable mention. He was second on the Beavs in total tackles with 77, including eight for loss.

His '09 numbers become even more impressive when considering he often played as a loaded backer-type role up close to the line, presumably to help shore up OSU's d-line. In so doing, Pa'aluhi often blew up a play, which enabled other Beaver teammates to log the tackle in the box score.

Pa'aluhi first made his mark at Oregon State in the latter part of his redshirt freshman season. He posted 96 career tackles at Oregon State.

"We fully support David's decision," Riley said. "He's a terrific young man with a great future, and all of us in the Beaver football program thank him for his contributions and wish him the very best."

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