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Penn State Football: Linebackers Look For Next Man Up

by on April 08, 2015 6:00 AM

It's a position that has helped shape the perception of Penn State's football program for decades.

Some of the nation's best linebackers call State College home every year.

Almost every season, the team needs to replace an elite linebacker who now calls the NFL home.

Penn State has plenty of talent this year but question still remains. Who's next?

Who Left:

Mike Hull, Drew Boyce, TJ Rhattigan

With all due respect to the other departures in this category, from the most functional standpoint Hull is the man to replace in the linebacker unit. Deceptive speed, a high football IQ and a motor that made up for any physical shortcomings, Hull was the latest in a long line of talented linebackers.

Replacing Hull isn't an impossible task. The marquee linebacker at Penn State has been replaced year after year, but it's still one of the biggest priorities on the roster.

Who is Here:

Matthew Baney, Brandon Bell, Jason Cabinda, Jordan Dudas, Koa Farmer, Jack Haffner, Ben Kline, Troy Reeder, Brandon Smith, Evan Steinfeld, Von Walker, Nyeem Wartman, Gary Wooten.

The good news for Nittany Lion fans is the fact that even after losing Hull there are plenty of talented linebackers waiting in the wings. Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell will likely get two of the starting spots with the likes of Jason Cabinda, Koa Farmer and Troy Reeder not far behind.

It remains to be seen how the potion shakes out exactly, but there are warm bodies with capable talent ready to take that next step. While still a long shot, Matthew Baney is a linebacker who gets all sorts of praise from teammates and coaches but sees limited action. He might be overdue for a shot in the bright lights early in the season to see what he can do.

Greatest Strength: Experience

Even if Hull leaves an opening in this unit there are plenty of linebackers who have played their fair share of snaps on the defense. Wartman is a guy defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has singled out, and Brandon Bell has seen plenty of game action as well.

Playing time doesn't equal quality, but there are worse things than experience, even if sometimes the experience hasn't always been good. All in all though, this group has the makings of another solid linebacker corps.

Greatest Weakness: No Obvious No. 1

This may not be an issue for long, but the answer to the question "Who will anchor this unit?" is still to be determined. It seems reasonable to assume it will be Wartman or Bell, but until they're succeeding without Hull on the field it's still a question mark. Shoop being a fan of those two is about all you need to hear in terms of their potential, but they still have to execute.

Overall:

With experienced players returning and talent on the way this summer there is no lack of skill to give this unit depth. Some of the biggest questions will be how smart the unit can play together and whether they can replace Mike Hull and find the next big name at Linebacker U. There are question marks for this position, but all of them should result in fairly positive answers for Penn State.

 

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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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