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Penn State Football: Hull Breaks The Walls Down With 2014 Season In Sight

by on April 05, 2014 7:00 AM

Editor’s Note: This is the 22nd in a series previewing Penn State football, part of the countdown to the Blue-White Game on April 12 by StateCollege.com and Onward State. Read the previous stories here.

Mike Hull has seen a lot in his day. In fact, he's seen more defensive coordinators than he has seen head coaches.

It's an odd fact considering the defensive unit at Penn State has largely been coached by only a handful of assistants. But like anything to have come out of the past few years, nothing that was normal at Penn State is normal anymore.

"Whenever the sanctions hit, we kind of developed an us up against the world mentality and we got really close as a team, just take it upon ourselves to see what happens. I think there was a wall there but we've been able to break it down as a team. The last couple weeks we've made a lot of progress."

Even with that progress, Hull and his defensive colleagues do appreciate -- or would at least like to appreciate -- some stability. The lack of stability on the coaching staff made some Nittany Lions hesitant to go all-in, yet again, for another coaching staff. But as Hull notes, that's changed.

"Over the last couple weeks, just getting to know us, taking us out to eat as a unit," Hull said. "Coach Franklin had us over. Little things like that just build your trust. He does fun things at the end, put pressure on the kickers and try to make them make field goals. Everyone likes that he lets us have a say in some stuff. I think that's helped break down the wall."

With demolition of that wall almost complete it means the Nittany Lions can continue to work on a new foundation of not only trust but of understanding of the playbook on both sides of the ball.

On some level there are only so many ways to approach defense and with so many coaches coming and going at Penn State, there isn't much Hull hasn't already seen.

"It's pretty similar to the past defenses that we've played. Coach (Bob) Shoop does a good job of bundling the concepts. The field linebacker's more like a safety hybrid. It just means more guys are going to be competing for true linebacker spots, which I think will be good for our team overall."

The linebacker position is another area where the Nittany Lions will need players to take their game to the next level. Hull is the veteran of the bunch following the graduation and departure of Glenn Carson. Ben Kline is also poised to make a bigger contribution on the outside next season but both he and Hull will need help. That could come in the form of sophomores Brandon Bell, Nyeem Wartman, or Gary Wooten. In all likelihood each of the young up-and-coming Linebacker U prospects will see the field in 2014.

Hull likes what he has seen from all of them, mentioning Wooten as one player who has really improved his game.

"It's been a huge difference. I think the new staff, with the way they coach and their style has really helped him flourish. He's made huge strides. He's always had the physical tools to be great. He's just putting it all together right now."

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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