Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series previewing Penn State football, part of Onward State and StateCollege.com’s countdown of insight and analysis about head coach James Franklin and his team heading into the Blue-White Game on April 12. Read the previous stories here.
Today’s preview highlights a position with which Penn State football has become synonymous, although the days of Linebacker U may be in the past as the Nittany Lions have turned to a more offense-based approach.
Key Losses: Glenn Carson
Key returners: Ben Kline, Mike Hull, Brandon Bell, Nyeem Wartman, Gary Wooten, Charles Idemudia
Depth Chart: This is a position where the starters should be pretty solidified through camp into the beginning of the season in Ireland. Sophomore Brandon Bell and redshirt sophomore Nyeem Wartman are the favorites for the two outside linebacker positions. Following Carson’s graduation, redshirt senior Mike Hull has been moved to the middle linebacker spot, which is fitting since the position is nicknamed the “Mike” linebacker. Ben Kline sits behind Hull at that spot while Gary Wooten and Charles Idemudia are second in line for the two outside spots in the Nittany Lions’ 4-3 defense.
Prediction: While there is room for speculation in some other spots on Penn State’s roster, this one is fairly black and white. I’d be surprised if anyone other than the three players listed above start at linebacker come August, barring any injuries. Troy Reeder and Torrence Brown are both solid recruits, but they need some development time and it would be a shocker if either of them saw the field much or at all in 2014.
Losing Mike Mauti and Gerald Hodges two seasons ago hurt Penn State’s defense immensely. The Carson departure gives Hull a chance to shine, but he has some big shoes to fill. While depth is a bit of a concern and I wouldn’t expect huge things from Penn State’s linebackers, the unit is solid overall and should be able to get the job done.