Today, VBR will stay with the linebackers for our next Penn State player preview. Everyone knows that Penn State has the nickname “Linebacker U” thanks to the fact that some of the best linebackers in the NFL have come by way of Happy Valley.
However, the linebacker position in recent years, especially now, has been a bit of a problem due to inexperience and depth issues. The recent season-ending injury to outside linebacker Ben Kline could put even more of a strain on the unit.
Though there are some question marks surrounding the Nittany Lion linebackers this season, one that’s ensured a starting spot is Mike Hull. He’s arguably the best of the bunch and has the most experience of anyone else on the roster at that position.
Hull spent most of his time on special teams early in his career, but was forced into a starting role at the end of the 2012 season when Michael Mauti suffered a serious knee injury. Hull entered the 2013 season as a clear starter at outside linebacker. He ended up starting 10 out of 12 games for the Nittany Lions last year, as an injury forced him to miss two games.
Despite missing time, Hull finished last season second on the team with 78 total tackles. He tied for fourth on the team with four-and-a-half tackles for a loss. Hull’s best performance in 2013 was against Illinois, when he registered 13 total tackles.
This season, Hull will clearly be looked to as a leader on the defense. The linebackers are young and will need a veteran to lead them. Hull firs that role perfectly. It’s expected that he’s going to move from outside linebacker to inside linebacker to be the replacement for the departed Glenn Carson.
The linebacking group is far from set this year for the Nittany Lions. While Hull may begin the season in the middle, he could be moved back outside in an effort to find the best combination. Regardless of where he lines up on the field, expect Hull to be the team leader this year in tackles. If he stays healthy, Hull should be able to eclipse 90 tackles and also get a sack or two.