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Penn State Football: Wartman Ready To Be Next Man Up For Linebacker Unit

by on April 14, 2015 2:00 PM

There is a certain expectation when you think what a Penn State linebacker will be.

It's the kind of player who is as mentally strong as he his physically intimidating.

Penn State linebackers bear the brunt of the defensive attack, making plays in the secondary and in the backfield.

If that isn't enough, someone is always expected to be the star. And when you're next in line to fill that role, it's no small task.

But that's what Penn State linebacker Nyeem Wartman faces this spring. The team has to replace megastar Mike Hull. Wartman brings his own brand of physical and mental game to Penn State's defense.

Speaking to the media Tuesday morning, Wartman didn't seem overwhelmed by the notion that he has big shoes to fill. He seems focused simply on football. The hyperbole will take care of itself.

"I like playing the middle," Wartman said when asked his preferred role -- inside or outside linebacker.  "Just how you control the defense, you’re the guy setting people up, and the liberty of that. I learned a lot from Mike Hull. He was very good verbally in games. Practice he was a lead by example guy. I’ve learned so much from him and he was a great role model for me."

To replace Hull exactly Wartman would need to rack up a whopping 140 tackles, but after a 75 tackle season himself, Wartman seems the perfect candidate to increase his production.

The focus all spring though is simply finding chemistry with his fellow linebackers. The stats aren't nearly as important as the ability to get everyone on the same page. The good news so far for fans -- Wartman is cautiously excited about how things are coming together.

"I just like the energy. The chemistry that I have with Jason (Cabinda) and Brandon (Bell) when I’m out there," Wartman said. "I like the fact that now that I’m in the middle and he’s right there right next to me, just have someone that was your backup right next to you now."

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What excites nearly everyone in the program though, is the defensive line. A combination of experience and talent, youth and energy, Penn State's front could be something special. That means if Wartman and company can get on the same page and live up to expectations, Penn State's defense could be a tough one to crack once again this season.

"Those guys are just phenomenal to have in front of you," Wartman said of the defensive line. "They take on double teams all the time. It’s so great having them. Sometimes in practice you want to make a play and you get a little jealous because they get off the block so fast and make the play in front of you and you’re like ‘man, I wanted to make that play.’"

But even Wartman will admit there are worse things than a defensive line that is making all the plays. That means a lot of short yardage gains for the opposing offense. That's something everyone can get behind.

With a few months still left to go before Penn State finally hits the field in Philadelphia against Temple, Wartman will have things to work on. The little details that make the difference between a good defense and a great one. Getting everyone on the same page, communicating, and staying consistent are all crucial elements of success.

Like all good things, it will come with time and hard work.

"When I’m calling out the defense, there’s a certain way I call out the defense, some of the defensive lineman want me to call it in a certain way, like Mike Hull did it," Wartman said.  "The biggest adjustment is my wording when I’m calling the plays and making sure they’re lined up and don’t have to think about it."

And once Penn State's defense is just playing and not thinking, that could spell trouble for opposing offenses. 

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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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