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Oregon State Football: Most Valuable Player Countdown - #35 Jonathan Willis

We like linebackers.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Oregon State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

#35: Jonathan Willis - Inside Linebacker

When your team’s base defense is a 3-4, you better be stacked at linebacker. We continue our list with our fifth true linebacker of the countdown so far.

In an article by Gina Mizell from the Oregonian, Jonathan Willis had acquired the nickname “Old Man Wills” as a freshman due to his approach at energy conservation off the field. Now a redshirt junior, he really is one of the old guys as he is one of five upperclassmen in a group of 16 linebackers.

Willis burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman going up against a stout Utah running team and tallying an impressive 11 tackles in his first start. He garnered a lot of praise for his special teams performance during what was a trying year, and eventually got his chance to showcase his skills in fours starts in the last five games of the year. He ended up finishing third on the team in tackles despite having only those four starts.

Last year, Willis transitioned to inside linebacker, and while he only started two games, he was still involved in every game. That means he has 24 games of experience in his career to go along with 93 tackles which ranks first and second respectively among the current group of linebackers.

Willis now finds himself competing against sophomore stud Andrzej Hughes-Murray for the inside linebacker spot next to Manase Hungalu. Even if Willis doesn’t win the starting role, expect to see him on the field whether it’s on special teams or being the first guy off the bench filling in if attrition hits this position group again.

The List So Far

#35: Jonathan Willis - ILB

#36: Tuli Wily-Matagi - TE

#37: Doug Taumoelau - ILB

#38: Shemar Smith - OLB

#39: Hamilcar Rashed Jr. - OLB

#40: David Morris - S/OLB

#41: Nick Porebski - P

#42: Omar Hicks-Onu - S

#43: Isaac Garcia - DE

#44: Andre Bodden- WR

#45: Trajon Cotton - S

#46: Shemiah Unutoa-Whitson - OLB

#47: Kolby Taylor - WR

#48: Darell Garretson - QB

#49: Jordan Choukair & Adley Rutschman - K

#50: Thor Katoa - DT/OLB