Linebackers are the focus of the latest in our “Breaking Down the Beavers” series. Dating back to the Jerry Pettibone days, OSU has churned out a lot of productive players at this position, including Bryan Jones, Jonathan Jackson, Nick Barnett, Trent Bray, Keith Ellison — just to name a few. In fact, for awhile, local media and fans dubbed OSU, “Linebacker University West.” However, in recent years, this unit has struggled with injuries and inconsistency.
But I’m hopeful that linebacker becomes a keystone of OSU football under this new coaching staff… maybe a unit that flies around making plays. 🙂 That said, the Beavers will enter this season with new starters at each linebacker spot, which means there will be some growing pains as the players learn to work with each other and within a new defensive scheme.
Rommel Mageo (JR), Caleb Saulo (JR), Darrell Songy (SOPH), Kyle Haley (JR), Ricky Liuchan (FR), Jonathan Willis (FR), Bright Ugwoegbu (FR), Davd Henry (SOPH), and T.J. Hufanga (SOPH).
D.J. Alexander (drafted in 5th round by Kansas City)), Michael Doctor (graduated), and Jabral Johnson (graduated) — all of whom were starters.
OSU only signed one linebacker in its 2015 recruiting class, Christian Folau. A 3-star, he will be serving an LDS mission this season.
Don’t underestimate the return of Songy, who missed all of last season due to suspension. He was a special teams standout in 2013 and drew raves for his intensity and hard-hitting style. Fortunately, he was able to use a redshirt season last year, and this spring showed he’s ready to make up for lost time. Coaches not only singled out his play on the field, but his leadership. He could be the vocal leader leader the OSU defense has seemingly lacked in recent years.
Songy and Mageo figure to be locks to start — so who fills the other spot (or two if the Beavers use 3-4 this season)? Saulo has the most experience, but will have to hold off talented youngsters such as Ugwoegbu and Willis. And don’t forget about Haley, a JUCO transfer from last year. Is it his time to shine? The Beavers need their linebackers to anchor their defense this season, with questions on the line and depth issues in the secondary.
This unit has the depth, experience, and talent to be flourish this season. And I think it will under the new coaching staff. At the very least, the Beavers linebackers will play aggressive, hit hard, and swarm. That alone in itself would be a big step toward establishing the unit as the Beavers’ calling card on defense.
Go Beavs! (RW)