The Oregon State Beavers were one of the surprise teams in the Pac 12 last season, putting together a strong 2012 campaign that few people predicted. Now, they have to find a way to improve on their nine-win season from a year ago and take the next step towards winning the Pac 12 Championship in 2013. To do that, they will need middle linebacker Joel Skotte to step up in a major way.
Skotte will have to jump up to No. 1 on the middle linebacker depth chart now that the top two players at the position from a year ago have graduated. Feti Unga started in the middle of the defense for the Beavers all season long, recording 56 tackles, including two for loss, and an interception. Reuben Robinson acted as the primary backup and recorded 27 tackles of his own, two tackles for loss and an interception as well.
Now Skotte, who appeared in all 13 games as a freshman in 2012 but recorded just seven tackles, will be asked to step into the starting middle linebacker position and take on a huge amount of responsibility. He will be asked to do more than most sophomores and secure the middle of the Oregon State defense and attempt to maintain their physical front seven from last season, which was so integral to the team’s success last year.
He will be pushed by players like Jabral Johnson, Josh Williams and Shaydon Akuna, but those players will likely fall in behind Skotte on the depth chart. This spring will be the first major reps for each of those three at Oregon State, making the second-year Skotte the elder of the bunch and the best bet to emerge as a leader.
If Oregon State wants to improve on their 2012 success, they will need their defense to be even better in 2013. To do that, they will need a major breakthrough season from Joel Skotte at middle linebacker.