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Beaver linebackers aim to be best

Michael Doctor is back at outside linebacker for a second shot at his senior season.

Senior D.J. Alexander returns on the other side and Jabral Johnson moves into the middle for his senior year.

So how good will the Oregon State linebackers be this season?

Johnson said the goal is to be the top group around.

“I feel like we can be the best in the nation because we have three senior linebackers with a lot of experience who are all athletic and all smart,” Johnson said. “So that’s pretty much our goal.”

It starts with the three projected starters.

Doctor was knocked out of the Hawaii game last season with an ankle injury that wound up requiring surgery and he missed the rest of the season.

He was granted a fifth year of eligibility and brings 26 career starts to the table.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Doctor said. “My ankle has been responding really well, it responded really well in the springtime and it’s just time to get the season started.”

Doctor finished the 2012 season with 83 total tackles, including 11 for loss.

Johnson said getting Doctor back in the lineup is very significant for the Beavers because he acts as a coach on the field.

“He has a ton of experience,” Johnson said. “He likes to relay the messages if he sees something that alerts him, he echoes it to the defense so that we’re all on the same page.”

Alexander has started 20 games for the Beavers.

He missed three games last season and had neck surgery during the offseason, but should be good to go this season.

Alexander brings quite a bit of speed to the position and can track down ballcarriers from sideline to sideline. He had 63 total tackles last season and two sacks.

“D.J. brings a lot of athletic ability to the field as well as energy,” Johnson said.

“He flies around and makes plays. He has a lot of experience as well, this is his third year starting. So he has a lot of experience along with athletic ability. That’s pretty much what makes him such a key player.”

Johnson got the bulk of playing time for Alexander and Doctor when they were injured last year.

Johnson finished second on the team with 94 total tackles, with 3.5 for loss.

“He was not starting and then D.J. got hurt and he went in and started and played well and then D.J. came back and Michael got hurt and he went to the other side and played well,” coach Mike Riley said.

“He played so well that we couldn’t have him as a backup this year, so we put him as a middle linebacker and with D.J. and Michael, now I think we’ve formed as good a group in total as we’ve had. We’ve always had good linebackers at Oregon State, but these guys together are pretty special.”

Riley called Johnson a smart, physical player who is a good teammate.

“He’s just kind of done it all through a lot of diligent work,” Riley said.

“I guess you could say he is a good athlete, he’s got a lot of stuff to him that way. He’s got great character and he’s been durable. So all those characteristics have allowed him to just get better.”

Sophomores Rommel Mageo and Caleb Saulo also wound up with quite a bit of on-field experience last season.

Mageo took over the starting spot at middle linebacker after the fourth game of the season and finished with 47 tackles, five for loss.

Saulo started two games on the outside.

“We have a lot of guys with tons of experience and it’s going to look good,” Doctor said. “The chemistry’s looking good and we just need to keep it rolling.”

FILE - In this July 24, 2014, file photo, Oregon State linebacker Michael Doctor poses for a photo at the 2014 Pac-12 NCAA college football media days at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The normally unshakable Doctor was a little nervous. After his senior season was cut short by a fractured ankle, Oregon State requested another year of eligibility for the outside linebacker. Doctor can rest easy. He's been green-lighted for one more season. (AP Photo/File)