It’s time once again to hand out more postseason grades for the Nittany Lions. This latest installment will take a look at how the linebackers fared in 2013. Penn State has been known as “Linebacker U” for a long time. However, at the start of this past season, there were more questions marks at the position than normal.
Head coach Bill O’Brien and his staff had the difficult task of replacing two of the three starting linebackers from last season. Adding to the daunting task was the fact that the players being replaced were both strong leaders on and off the field. Gerald Hodges was an excellent linebacker for the Nittany Lions. Michael Mauti excelled on the field and was the vocal leader of the team when the NCAA sanctions were handed down.
To make matters worse, injuries and players leaving the program made the depth chart even more thin than it was. Safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong was moved to linebacker before the first game. He moved all around the defense as the season went on and made 50 total tackles.
Senior middle linebacker Glenn Carson was the only returning starter from 2012. The Nittany Lions needed him to be a leader this year, and he didn’t disappoint. Carson led the team with 90 total tackles, including 43 solo tackles. His efforts earned him an invitation to put his talent on display for NFL scouts at the annual East-West Shrine Game.
Mike Hull, who played in every game in 2012 and filled in as a starter when Mauti was injured, was expected to have a huge season as a full-time starter in 2013. Unfortunately, an early-season injury kept him out of two games and hampered his consistency. Hull did finish with 78 total tackles and had some big games throughout the season. His most productive game came against Illinois when he recorded 13 tackles.
While two of the three linebacker positions were locked up in the offseason, it was unclear who would fill the third and final spot.
Nyeem Wartman, a talented linebacker who was injured in the second game of the season last year, began 2013 as the starter and ended up making eight starts. He finished with 32 total tackles. Ben Kline made two starts and saw sporadic action throughout the year. True freshman Brandon Bell really came on late in the season and even started at linebacker in the final game and recorded a total of 12 tackles in the last two games.
Grading this unit is a bit hard, as the linebackers were so good last season. There was a lot of inconsistency this year, but when all of the challenges the unit had to overcome are considered, the Penn State linebackers did a decent job this season. The defense as a whole struggled in 2013, but I’ll give the linebackers a B-.
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