Penn State strives to maintain usual standard at linebacker
College Football Videos
Graduation and injuries stripped Penn State of depth, experience and leadership at the position that is most associated with its football program.
But Mike Hull is confident that familiarity with coach Bill O'Brien's system will help offset the losses of linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, two of the cornerstone players from last year's 8-4 team.
“We're way ahead of where we were last year in terms of assignments,” said Hull, a Canon-McMillan graduate.
Hull's emergence last season also should inspire optimism that Penn State won't suffer a significant drop-off at linebacker.
Hull played significant snaps in 2012 as a fourth linebacker, and the rising redshirt junior did more than just spell Mauti, Hodges and returning starter Glenn Carson.
Hull led Penn State with two fumble recoveries, tied for second with 4½ sacks — Hodges and Mauti combined for four quarterback takedowns — and finished fifth on the team with 58 tackles. He often replaced Carson at middle linebacker on passing downs, and he became a starter at outside linebacker when Mauti tore his ACL for the second consecutive season.
“He was a clutch player for us last year, and we're going to see bigger things out of him this year.” said Carson, Penn State's leading returning tackler (85). “He's my type of guy. He loves to compete, and he's a guy that has a great work ethic.”
The latter may have manifested itself most with what Hull immersed himself in during the offseason.
“I've just been in the film room a lot, and I'm trying to be a leader on defense,” Hull said. “I think last year kind of set the stage for what I expect to do in the future.”
Penn State is going to need the 6-foot, 229-pounder to take another significant step forward this season.
Hull and Carson are the only returning linebackers who have started, and depth is as much a concern as experience. Nyeem Wartman is expected to start at the outside linebacker spot opposite Hull, and the rising redshirt freshman has received rave reviews.
One of the biggest priorities for Penn State with three weeks left in spring practice is developing quality depth behind Hull, Carson and Wartman.
Ben Kline, who likely will be a key reserve in the fall, isn't taking part in spring drills as he recovers from a shoulder injury. There is also uncertainty over incoming outside linebacker Zayd Issah after the highly regarded recruit was charged last week with using counterfeit money at a McDonald's in Harrisburg.
O'Brien specifically mentioned Issah as an incoming freshman who could provide depth for Penn State next season. Issah wrote on his Twitter account Sunday “minor setback for a major comeback,” but his future at Penn State remains in question.
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ ScottBrown_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Hempfield infant fights rare disease
- Penguins’ Letang leaves hospital, out with concussion
- Penguins slip past Sharks, 3-2, in shootout
- Owner of Penn Hills tombstone business pleads guilty to swindling the bereaved out of $90K
- LaBar: WrestleMania 31 one of the best ever
- New Kensington resident looks to transform city
- Former teachers convicted in Atlanta test scandal
- Researchers uncover details to help get GOP candidates elected
- Couple taken into custody after 8-hour standoff in Hempfield
- 1 dead after car tries to ram Fort Meade gate
- With Malkin out, Penguins fall to Flyers, 4-1