Penn State has had nine linebackers drafted in the past seven years, including two in April, and senior Glenn Carson is the latest standout 'backer for the Nittany Lions.
Carson has been productive on the field and in the classroom. He graduated in May with a degree in advertising/public relations and now is working on a second degree, in labor and employment relations. Carson (6 feet 3, 235 pounds) will be a three-year starter in the middle and is especially adept against the run. While he runs relatively well and is a steadying force, he hasn't shown a knack for making big plays (just five tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in his career). Still, he is coming off an 85-tackle season and should vie for All-Big Ten honors this season.
The big plays might come from redshirt freshman Nyeem Wartman (6-1, 241). He would've played last season but had to redshirt after he suffered a knee injury in Game 2. He had a strong spring and will start at one of the outside spots. Wartman runs well, has good instincts and is expected to be especially tough against the run.
He told the Centre Daily Times newspaper that he's a much better player now than he was last year at this time. "I improved a lot," he said. "I got stronger, faster and bigger. I got smarter watching film."
Mike Hull (6-0/227), a junior, will be the other starter on the outside. He lacks ideal size, but runs well, has excellent instincts, good strength (he is the only non-lineman at Penn State who can bench 400 pounds) and always seems to be around the ball. He had four sacks, an interception, two fumble recoveries, a blocked punt and four pass breakups to go with 58 tackles as a backup last season.
The starting trio should be one of the best in the Big Ten. But the issue is a lack of depth, which, frankly, is an issue at almost every position for Penn State because of the NCAA-imposed scholarship limitations. The Nittany Lions have good starters across the board, but there is a precipitous drop in talent at some positions. Linebacker is one of those positions.
Only one other linebacker on the roster, sophomore Gary Kline, has appeared in a college game, and he is coming off shoulder surgery that kept him out of spring practice and is limiting him during fall camp. Redshirt freshmen Gary Wooten and Charles Idemudia and true freshman Brandon Bell also are expected to be in the mix, but the situation is so dire that the Daily Times reported that O'Brien has hinted that safeties Adrian Amos and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong could move to linebacker if needed. Amos started at corner last season and is the best player in a deep secondary.