Fifth in a series looking at lineup holes that are important even if they don't make headlines.
Everybody is talking about: The Beavers not only must replace their quarterback, they must replace Sean Canfield, who earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors after posting an outstanding senior season. Therefore, the marquee competition this spring is between sophomore Ryan Katz and junior Peter Lalich.
Bigger shoes than you think: Middle linebacker David Pa'aluhi
The obvious answer here would be first-team All-Pac-10 linebacker Keaton Kristick, who started 27 games during his career and led the Beavers in tackles in 2009. But this isn't about obvious. Moreover, the Beavers will be moving senior Keith Pankey, who's sitting out spring practices with a torn Achilles tendon, to Kristick's strongside spot. Pankey has started 13 games while previously platooning with Dwight Roberson at weakside linebacker, so he's hardly green. There will be no such veteran presence ready to fill the void at MLB. Pa'aluhi, an underrated player who looked ready to blossom in 2010 as a junior, opted to quit the team for personal reasons and, reportedly, to join the military. He started all 13 games last year and ranked second on the team with 77 tackles and tied for second with eight tackles for a loss. He earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors.
Who is stepping in: It figures to be an interesting competition. Sophomores Feti "Kevin" Unga and Rueben Robinson and senior Walker Vave combined for 32 tackles in 2009, but sophomore Tony Wilson, who sat out last year with a knee injury, might be the frontrunner. There's plenty of potential here, but it's mostly unproven.