Red-shirt sophomore linebacker Darrell Songy has been dropped from the Oregon St. football team. His departure was announced as the Beavers prepare to start summer camp, and is a significant setback as the team prepares to switch to a 3-4 system.
Songy was expected to claim one of the starting spots, and had a strong spring practice, after returning for a suspension for the 2014 season, during which he used his red-shirt season. He was still allowed to practice last year, and was a standout on the scout team.
The university never explained the suspension, citing only violation of athletic department policy, but Songy admitted this spring that he failed 3 drug tests prior to last season. The stated reason for his dismissal was that "he did not fulfill additional behavioral requirements set for him" after the suspension.
Songy could continue his football career at the JC level, and then still have 2 years at an FBS school, but his plans are not set at this time, and reportedly, he will not be allowed back at Oregon St.
Songy's departure leaves the Beavers with only 9 linebackers, and precious little depth.
Juniors Caleb Saulo and Rommel Mageo return some experience, and will doubtless snare 2 of the starting spots if healthy, and red-shirt freshman Bright Ugwoegbu excelled this spring, likely earning at a minimum, a spot in the regular rotation, with a chance to start if his progress continues on pace in summer camp.
Hawaiian sophomore Manase Hungalu, junior Kyle Haley, and redshirt freshman Jonathan Willis are likely to contend for a starting spot, and freshman Ricky Liuchan, who grey-shirted last season, looked good at times in the spring. Thoughts of possibly red-shirting him are probably gone, for depth reasons.
Sophomores T.J. Hufanga and David Henry round out the roster, and will have the opportunity to earn playing time as well, as the progress of the linebacker position, which graduated all 3 starters from last year, will be one of the most important projects of summer camp.
While there is some demonstrated talent at the position, it is also the position group with the least experience on the team other than quarterback, and because of the need for increased numbers in a new scheme, and against ever more fast paced opposing offenses, this is the single greatest concern the team faces as they approach the season.
The lack of depth at linebacker, and the availability at defensive tackle of both Jalen Grimble and Kyle Peko, could also prompt head coach Gary Andersen and defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake to reconsider how much 4-3 the Beavers may play instead of 3-4. It could also mean more nickel coverages, in a 3-3-5 alignment.