The next best linebacker at OSU is...

The next best linebacker at OSU is...

Mike Riley was not at OSU football practice on Tuesday. He is out of town attending to his father who has become ill.

Riley's Beavers were one of the youngest teams in college football a year ago, playing 10 true freshmen. One of theose freshmen was linebacker D.J. Welch who got the majority of his rep on special teams.

Entering the spring though, Welch finds himself atop the depth chart at Sam (strong-side) linebacker. His experience in 2011 has helped him get up to speed with the defense.

"Everything seemed like it was going a mile a minute," said Welch. "But toward the end of the season, things started slowing down a little bit. Definitely this year things have slowed down and now I'm picking up things a lot quicker and reacting faster."

That's good for Welch because the job appears to be his lose.

"Now it's on him to be responsible play in and play out because he's going to be that guy at that position," said defensive coordinator Mark Banker. "He's got a tremendous chance at being one of the best linebackers at this school."

Welch played in 10 games last season, accumulating 18 tackles with one sack.