Spring Practice Preview - Linebackers

March 24, 2010

Entering the offseason following the 2009 football season head coach Mike Riley and defensive coordinator Mark Banker must have been excited about the depth and experience in the linebacking corps for the 2010. Then came the loss of two expected starters ... unexpectedly.

First, Keith Pankey, who has essentially been a starter for two years, tore his Achilles tendon. Then David Pa'aluhi, who started 13 games in 2009, left the team due to join the Armed Forces.

But fear not. While the picture may be murky, the cupboard is hardly bare. (It should be noted that Pankey is expected to return in time for the 2010 season, but will certainly miss Spring Ball.)

The 'Will' linebacker spot is set with senior Dwight Roberson, who started 13 games at the position last year and has shared the position with Pankey for two years. Roberson has a knack for being near the ball and for stripping the ball from opposing ballcarriers as evidenced by his five career forced fumbles. Zane Norris, who has made a mark on special teams, enters the spring as Roberson's back-up with freshman greyshirt Michael Doctor behind him.

At the other outside position - the 'Sam' - Pankey, a senior with 13 starts in his career, is slated to replace departed All-Pac-10 First Team player Keaton Kristick in 2010. However, a host of athletes will take turns keeping Pankey's spot warm while he's on the sideline. Uani `Unga will take the initial snaps after showing promise with a dozen tackles on special teams and in limited action on defense as a true freshman in 2009. Senior Keo Camat also saw action last year and will push for playing time. Junior Paul Jones, who is coming off a knee injury, will also take reps at 'Sam.'

The only truly vacant position in the linebacking corps is in the middle and four players are lined looking to make their mark. Sophomore Tony Wilson, who was expected to have a break-out year in 2009 before missing the season with a knee injury, will take the first turns. Fellow sophomores Rueben Robinson and Feti `Unga will also receive a lot of snaps as linebacker coach Greg Newhouse sorts out the best ways to use each player. Robinson received considerable playing time as a true freshman in the middle last year and played most of the Civil War. Feti `Unga, who played in the middle in high school, will move into the center of the action after playing on the outside last year. `Unga recorded 18 tackles in 2009, mostly on special teams, but like his twin brother is often found near the ball. Senior Walker Vave will also vie for playing time.

The quest for success in 2010 begins at 3 p.m. Mon., March 29 with the first day of spring practice. Practices are open to the public and fans are encouraged to attend.

Check back daily for more position previews and once practice starts for recaps and interviews on Beaver Nation Online, the official audio/visual source for Beaver Athletics.

Spring Practice Schedule - March 29, 31; April 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28; May 1 (Spring Game).

Depth Chart (as of March 22)

'SAM' LINEBACKER
35 *** Keith Pankey (injured) Sr. 6-0 231 Visalia, Calif.
44 * Uani `Unga So. 6-1 219 Rochester, Calif.
52 *** Keo Camat Sr. 6-2 238 Portland, Ore.
31 * Paul Jones Jr. 6-2 209 Nyssa, Ore.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER
43 Tony Wilson So. 6-1 231 Salem, Ore.
13 * Rueben Robinson So. 6-1 222 Chandler, Ariz.
41 * Feti `Unga So. 6-1 236 Rochester, Calif.
48 ** Walker Vave Sr. 6-2 242 Laie, Hawai'i

'WILL' LINEBACKER
59 *** Dwight Roberson Sr. 6-0 232 Oxnard, Calif.
29 * Zane Norris So. 6-2 223 Portland, Ore.
40 Michael Doctor Fr. 5-11 216 Tulsa, Okla.

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