True Freshman Abdul Carter Helping To Anchor Penn State’s Defense

The history behind Penn State linebackers wearing No. 11 is a storied one. True freshman Abdul Carter is the latest to join the lineage.

When it was announced Carter would don the Stix, anticipation was understandably high. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s preseason vow to play young players early and often ensured the desire to see Carter play would be satisfied in week one against Purdue.

Or so we thought. On his first career defensive snap for Penn State, Carter was ejected for a targeting penalty.

Since then, though, Carter has sixteen tackles, a sack, two pass defenses, and a forced fumble on the season. Carter’s tackle total is the team’s third-highest and his passes defended lead the linebacking corps. Some would call that living up to the hype.

Head coach James Franklin said he’s been impressed with the “freakishly fast, freakishly strong” linebacker from day one.

“[Carter] doesn’t have the body of a normal high school linebacker coming in,” Franklin said at a press conference earlier this season. “I remember talking to him throughout the recruiting process after he signed, and him and his dad were asking about weight. I’m like, ‘You’re plenty big now.'”

Sophomore defensive end Chop Robinson had a different first impression of the 6’3″, 233-pound Carter.

“When I first met him, I was kinda looking at him like ‘Why does he look like me?'” Robinson said after Penn State’s 41-12 victory over Auburn. “Every time we see each other, we call each other twins.”

Carter’s explosion onto the scene came at a crucial time for the Nittany Lions’ defense. In a rare situation, Penn State’s defense entered the year as the team’s biggest question mark — specifically the linebackers.

But with players like Carter, the unit has been less of a liability than originally predicted. Take Carter’s performance against Auburn, which included six tackles, a sack, and a flashy forced fumble.

Carter brings a needed energy to Penn State’s defense and epitomizes the havoc Diaz likes his squad to cause. Any time he’s on the field, it feels like Carter might end up in the backfield on top of an opposing ball carrier.

“He’s one of our more explosive guys,” Franklin said. “All the catapult numbers and things like that tell you that… Obviously, not getting more reps in that game one was not ideal, but there is enough to build on now.”

As the season continues, Carter will continue to grow. Take, for example, another fellow No. 11 with extended true freshman playing experience — Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.

Though it was clear he was a skilled player in his first season, Parsons made a noticeable jump in his sophomore year. As a sophomore, Parsons added 27 more tackles (10 more for a loss), 3.5 more sacks, and doubled his forced fumble numbers.

Franklin is confident Carter’s development can mirror a similar pace.

“I know he’s gaining more and more confidence, and I know Manny [Diaz] is gaining more and more confidence in him as well,” Franklin said. “He can go out and use these skills that he has with less thinking, which will make him even more of a violent and fast player.”

There are no more out-of-conference opponents for Penn State this season. With looming matchups against offenses boasting players like Heisman favorite CJ Stroud, the Nittany Lions will rely on Carter and others to keep them afloat.

The Nittany Lions, fittingly ranked No. 11, continue their season this Saturday when they host Northwestern at Beaver Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m., and the game will air on ESPN.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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