Hull of a Strength: Mike Hull a Vital Piece to Defense and Penn State Football Future
Mike Hull gave himself a 50 percent chance he’d remain at Penn State when the NCAA sanctions were announced July 23. Pitt, he said, also had a 50 percent chance of landing him when the NCAA said any PSU player could transfer to any school and immediately become eligible. And because the NCAA is granting the freedom for players to leave without penalty up until preseason practice 2013, there will be more inquiry calls made to Penn State’s best young linebacker after the season ends in late November.
Those calls, however, may be met with silence. On Wednesday, Hull followed suit with some of his fellow underclassmen by giving his early pledge to remain at Penn State. He would have two years of eligibility remaining and would be in line to start at strong side linebacker next year because of the departure of senior Gerald Hodges. To that end, the move to stay at a school and play under a position coach that had groomed Sean Lee and NaVorro Bowman, two of the best young NFL linebackers, seems obvious.
“There’s no point in leaving now,” Hull said.
Hull has the inside track to Penn State’s starting linebacker rotation in 2013, but his impact in 2012 could just be starting. He scooped up a fumble and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown in last week’s 34-7 victory against Navy, and he’s recorded 13 tackles, including a sack, in three games despite playing behind a veteran starting trio. As a freshman, Hull was given a look at safety because of his speed — today, his hand-timed 40-yard dash is in the 4.5s, he said. Pound-for-pound, teammates call him the strongest player on the team. His 405-pound max for the bench press leads everyone, not just linebackers.
He needed extra time in the weight room during the spring, when a stomach virus caused him to lose 10-15 pounds and miss about a week of training. By preseason practice, he was back to 228 pounds and currently plays at about 225. He’s the primary backup for Hodges at the strong-side position but also receives practice reps in the middle and studies the weak side position in case he’s needed there.
“We've got a very strong linebacking corps, and we do try to get him in there and, you know, spell some of those guys that are ahead of him right now,” head coach Bill O’Brien said. “He's a tough guy. He's a Penn State linebacker, and we'll continue to play him.”