Being known as “Linebacker U” is a long-standing Penn State tradition, and if Mike Hull has anything to say about it, that moniker won’t end with him. The junior linebacker out of the Pittsburgh area is stepping into some big shoes this season as he takes over as a starter in the Nittany Lions defensive unit.
Hull is replacing two of the best Penn State linebackers in recent history in Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. But he has Bill O’Brien’s support as he tries to set his own path for success.
“Mike is one of the best football players on this team,” O’Brien said. “He is a tough guy. He is a smart guy. He can play the run well. I think he is a really good blitzer. He is good in coverage. He is somewhat of a quiet guy, but he is a leader by example. Everybody on this football team knows who Mike Hull is and they respect him. I think he is a really valuable part of this team.”
He saw his first major playing time at the linebacker position last year when Mauti went down with a season-ending knee injury against Indiana in the first quarter. He excelled after taking over, notching 11 tackles, one sack, 1.5 tackles for a loss, and one pass breakup in the game. Along with Glenn Carson and freshman Nyeem Wartman, Hull is looking to make some noise on a linebacker unit and a defense that some people seem to be overlooking heading into the season.
He has certainly learned from his predecessors, and there aren’t many guys that set a better example than Mauti and Hodges. “I liked to watch them last year on film, see how they played the game and studied it,” Hull said. “Their intensity and focused has really carried over and I’ve tried to emulate what they did on the field.”
While he has Mauti and Hodges in the rearview window, Hull also has a lofty last name to live up to. Tom Hull, his father, was a linebacker at Penn State in the early ’70s and helped lead the team to a perfect record as a senior.
“It means a lot to me being a legacy because there’s so many great players that came before us,” Hull said. “It’s hard sometimes to put into perspective how important that is but you just try to work hard every day and realize that there are so many great players and people that have impacted the program and you just want to try and uphold that tradition.”
Hull said that he has mostly been lining up as the strongside linebacker during training camp, which suits him because of his strength. Hull is the only non-lineman on the team that has benched more than 400 pounds. Look for the junior linebacker to be in on a lot of run-stops this season and to rack up a ton of tackles this season.
The team had a motivational speaker named Eric Thomas talk to them recently. Hull recounted his message as “giving it everything you have and taking advantage of the opportunity while the opportunity is still there.”
Mike Hull is one Penn State player who will be looking to do just that this season.