Starting middle linebacker David Pa'aluhi left the Oregon State football team to join the military, coach Mike Riley announced Thursday.

Pa'aluhi started all 13 games last season as a third-year sophomore. He was second on the team in tackles with 77 and was honorable mention All-Pacific-10 Conference.

"We fully support David's decision," Riley said in a release. "He's a terrific young man with a great future, and all of us in the Beaver football program thank him for his contributions and wish him the best."

Pa'aluhi played significantly his freshman season as the middle linebacker in the nickel defense. He was considered one of the strongest players on the team from his intense workouts.

The Beavers head into spring practice without two starting linebackers. Outside linebacker Keith Pankey is out after surgery to repair an Achilles' tendon injury suffered in an offseason workout. If he's available for the season depends on how he recovers.

Competition for the starting middle linebacker job begins with sophomores Rueben Robinson and Tony Wilson. Both have limited to no playing experience.

Robinson played in nine games last season as a true freshman and made nine tackles.

Wilson missed last season recovering from knee surgery. He redshirted his first season in 2008, but was hurt in spring practice.

That leaves senior Dwight Roberson as the most experienced linebacker. Devin Unga, Kevin Unga, Keo Camat and Walker Vave will look to fill in the vacancies in the depth chart.

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