Over the next few weeks we'll be breaking down each position group heading into spring ball. We continue with a look at the North's linebackers.
Washington: The Huskies' two leading tacklers -- Azeem Victor (95) and Keishawn Bierria (77) -- return from the Pac-12's top-ranked defense, which should be among the country's best next season. Travis Feeney and Cory Littleton are gone, but Ben Burr-Kirven, Psalm Wooching, Sean Constantine and Tevis Bartlett all played at times last season and will be back. D.J. Beavers, Jusstis Warren and Kyler Manu could earn time after redshirting in 2015.
Cal: The biggest change is that former linebackers coach Garret Chachere is now in charge of the running backs, while defensive coordinator Art Kaufman will coach the linebackers. Leading tackler Hardy Nickerson returns, but the Bears will have to replace Jalen Jefferson (graduation) and Michael Barton (transferred to Arizona). Devante Downs, Ray Davison and Jake Kearney all played last year and the Bears added just one linebacker in their recent recruiting class, three-star Cameron Goode.
Stanford: It'll be tough to replace Blake Martinez and Kevin Anderson, both of whom were big-time contributors for a long time, but the Cardinal has done a nice job with development and it should still be in good shape. Starters Kevin Palma (inside) and Peter Kalambayi (outside) are back and Noor Davis, Craig Jones, Joey Alfieri and Mike Tyler have all seen playing time. Tyler, in particular, is a player to watch after having a standout performance in the Rose Bowl (one sack, five hurries).
Washington State: Peyton Pelluer has a chance to develop into one of best linebackers in the Pac-12 after finishing fifth in the conference in tackles last year (101). Losing Jeremiah Allison to graduation is tough, but Frankie Luvu is a big hitter who can cover some ground. Parker Henry was fourth on the team in tackles last season and plays what is essentially a hybrid linebacker/safety role. Three new additions -- JC transfers Chima Onyeukwu and Suli Tamaivena and freshman Jahad Woods -- could play right away.
Oregon: Under new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke, the Ducks will move from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base and must replace three starters in Joe Walker, Rodney Hardrick and Tyson Coleman. Torrodney Prevot returns and junior-college transfer A.J. Hotchkins, ESPN's No. 2-ranked inside linebacker prospect, should start from Day 1.
Oregon State: Under their third defensive coordinator in three years -- Gary Andersen hired Kevin Clune to replace Kalani Sitake, who left to become the head coach at BYU -- a lot of questions remain for the Beavers despite returning nearly all their linebackers, notably seniors Rommel Mageo (87 tackles) and Caleb Saulo (69 tackles). Junior college transfer Wesley Payne should enter the rotation immediately and Oregon State will expect improved play from senior Kyle Haley and junior Manase Hungalu. Jonathan Willis made strides late last season (he finished third on the team with 67 tackles) and redshirt freshman Ricky Liuchan is another player to watch.