Riley on LBs, defensive depth, Paea and more

CORVALLIS -- With losses to graduation and offseason attrition on the defensive side of the ball, there are concerns about the 2010 Beaver D headed into spring. Mike Riley, however, says there is a silver lining to be found in the depth. Lots of news and notes from Riley on the D, including senior DT Stephen Paea putting up some stunning bench press numbers last week.

"Right now we are looking at the ‘good depth' part. If you want to look at the silver lining, that's the only way to look at it."

Arguably the biggest loss is at linebacker, where junior-to-be David Pa'aluhi left OSU to join the military and senior Keith Pankey (Achilles) is out until at least July, which the team and Pankey are both eyeing as his return.

"We lost (him) at the time we should be getting his best football," said Riley of Pa'aluhi.

There is, however, plenty of depth at both linebacker positions, he said, with sophomore MLB Tony Wilson currently at the top of the two-deeps. Wilson is returning from a broken leg and a missed 2009 season, and is backed up by fellow sophomore Reuben Robinson who played nearly the entire Las Vegas Bowl.

"(We have) high hopes for Tony Wilson, one of the harder worker s we have."

With Pankey out, the door will open for sophomore Devin Unga.

"Pankey we will have back. I hate not having him.. At worst with Pa'aluhi leaving we would have had two starters and stability, and now we are down to one. What looked like a really neat group going into spring ball has been depleted two-thirds."

TWO SOLID contributors in the secondary have exhausted their eligibility, with Patrick Henderson and Tim Clark graduating. Juniors James Dockery and Brandon Hardin are atop the 2-deeps at the cornerback spots.

But if last year's inconsistencies carry into spring, the door could be open for sophomore Jordan Poyer to make a play for the spot. Poyer's recent position change has caught Riley's interest.

"He will forge his identity there," said Riley.

At safety, juniors Cameron Collins and Lance Mitchell both played well in the latter part of the ‘09 season, and Riley indicated they have a firm hold on their positions on the two-deeps. Senior Suaesi Tuimaunei is slated to backup Collins, with sophomore Josh Lagrone returning from a leg injury to backup Mitchell. Eyes are on redshirt freshman Dax Dillbeck, however.

Dillbeck, No. 12, was voted as defensive scout team player of the year by his peers last year, and could make a push for serious playing time starting this spring.

THE DEFENSIVE LINE returns two semi-starters with seniors Gabe Miller and Matt Lagrone – each started the last four games. Both are tremendous athletes who Riley said could bring back the style of speed and finesse the Beavs have lacked since the losses of Slade Norris and Victor Butler a couple seasons ago.

"Gabe Miller has had a great year and an outstanding offseason. He ran the fastest 10-yard dash on our team the other day.. That's against everybody (even the Rodgers brothers.)"

That isn't hyperbole, either. Sports Information Director Steve Fenk confirmed it.

"I was there, I saw it. They made him run it twice just to make sure.. he did it," said Fenk.

Elsewhere out on the edge, redshirt freshman John Braun has been moved from offensive tackle to defensive end, and Mitchel Hunt, who is out of with a knee injury, moved from d-tackle to defensive end.

ON THE INTERIOR of the d-line, some changes have been made in the depth. Stephen Paea and Brennan Olander are solidly in as the starters but they'll have some new faces in their group.

Junior Kevin Frahm has moved to DT from the end spot. Ben Motter also comes over from as moved from offensive line to defensive tackle. Walk on Nathan Hannah has been moved from offensive guard to defensive tackle.

There were questions earlier in the offseason on whether or not Paea, a senior-to-be who should land on a whole lot of preseason honors lists, would return this season.

"I was worried because he went through the evaluation process (for the NFL Draft) and he was evaluated well.. I talked with (Indianapolis Colts president) Bill Polian about it and they were all very impressed by him but recommended he come back for another year."

Riley, and assembled media all agreed that Paea will eventually go on to set the NFL Combine bench press record.

With 225 pounds on the bar, Paea did 44 reps last week in workouts.

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