Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous that an injury to a senior LB would make the Beavers a better team, but the reality is that Keith Pankey is so bad, that his departure from the squad makes the Beavers better. That is, of course, assuming the guys behind him are at least average, and they are.
Tony Wilson was having a fantastic spring last year before he suffered his own season-ending injury. Then there is the prize of this year’s class, Shaydon Akuna. Akuna will likely start in Pankey’s place. Why?
1. Riley has been getting more precocial talent the past few years. Therefore, he’s been starting guys more and more as freshman. See Markus Wheaton, Michael Phillip, James and Quizz, etc.
2. The alternatives are Robinson, Tony Wilson, or Keo Camat. Wilson will be a good player, and he’s the main challenge here. However, his skill set is more suited for middle linebacker.
3. Pankey started as a true freshman, and he was (and still is) a below average defender who wouldn’t start on any other Pac-10 squad, not even Washington State. If Riley was willing to put Pankey in that position, surely he will give Akuna every opportunity to win the job.
Of course, Riley will make it an open competition to dissuade complacency, but right now we’re likely going to see another 4-star gem starting as a freshman. Do you think Akuna was over-nighted the playbook? You never want to cheer an injury, but this one is a blessing in disguise and the type of divine intervention that makes me wonder if the Beavers are in for a big year.