Shawn Annarelli

Linebacker U To Feature Old Leader, Future Stars

Created on Jul. 07, 2013 10:42 PM EST

Being a Penn State linebacker has its perks.

You are immediately synonymous with the likes of Jack Ham, LaVar Arrington and Sean Lee, players who perfected their crafts in Happy Valley and left a trail of triumphs for their successors to follow and conquer.

Playing for Linebacker U places pressure on every new linebacker. It’s pressure that Glenn Carson, who has started 24 consecutive games for Penn State, is used to.

Still, Carson was always the third wheel behind Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, the emotional leaders for not only Penn State’s defense, but also the team, the last two seasons. Mauti and Hodges each were selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2013 NFL Draft, joining 11 other current Penn State linebackers in the NFL.

Carson is the new torch-bearer and the next potential Nittany Lions linebacker to translate his talent into an NFL career, but first he has to prove himself.

Or does he?

He is reliable, but unspectacular. He is selfless, but that doesn’t show up in a box score. He is more vocal on the field than any other defender, but hardly talked about by fans and broadcasters.

Or, maybe, he is simply underappreciated.

He was the unsung leader of Penn State’s defense last season. He was by all means the defense’s quarterback, because he relayed all of the plays from the sideline to his teammates and made the defense’s pre-snap adjustments. Now, he is the only familiar face on Penn State’s linebacker corps, one that will feature two new starting linebackers to Carson’s left and right. They are Mike Hull and Nyeem Wartman, two speedy, untested defenders.

Hull is the more experienced of the two. He has played on every special teams unit and occasionally relieved 2012’s starters. He has a knack for finding the ball-carrier, as evidenced by his 58 tackles and four sacks in limited playing time last season.

Hull is expected to be the next great Penn State linebacker, so even as Carson leads the defense another linebacker likely will steal the spotlight.

Wartman has only made one tackle for Penn State, because he suffered a severe sprained knee in his second collegiate game last season. He is largely an unknown commodity, but still hyped by his coaches and teammates, particularly for studying opponents so closely last season despite not having a chance to play. He is expected to become another good-to-great Nittany Lions linebacker.

Regardless of how much Hull and Wartman emerge as forces at outside linebacker this season, they’ll owe a lot of their success to their mentor in the middle.

It’s Carson’s job to make them look better, just like he did for Mauti and Hodges.

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