With the 2012 season in the books, Lions247 will take a look at each of Penn State's position groupings, breaking down both how the Nittany Lions fared at that position this past season and what the future holds. Today we examine what life after Mauti and Hodges might look like for the Penn State linebacking corps.
Mike Hull should take on a bigger role in 2013.
2012 roundup: Linebacker U lived up to its proud legacy in its first season without Joe Paterno. Seniors Michael Mauti, the Big Ten's top linebacker of the year, and Gerald Hodges helped keep the team together during the summer then made plays everywhere once the season started. Both had at least 95 tackles and they combined for five interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Glenn Carson was strong in the middle for the second straight season and played some of his best football down the stretch against the run-heavy offenses of Nebraska and Wisconsin. Sophomore Mike Hull, after deciding to stay at Penn State, gave the Nittany Lions some added athleticism on third downs, filled in solidly for an injured Mauti and was a terror on special teams. The Nittany Lions, as they've been since Ron Vanderlinden arrived, were fundamentally sound and rarely, if ever, somewhere they shouldn't have been.
Departures: Mauti (95 tackles, 4 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 3 interceptions), Hodges (109-8.5-1-2), Mike Yancich (15-0-0-0), Jamie Van Fleet#
Mauti's presence as a leader will be even harder to replace than his production, which is saying something. Hodges was a similar contributor in both areas. Yancich, the team's special teams captain, played sparingly at linebacker this season and Van Fleet missed his final year with an ACL injury suffered in the preseason.
Wartman played in the Ohio and Virginia contests before suffering a knee injury. He is in the process of exploring a medical redshirt.
Newcomers: Brandon Bell
Bell projects as an inside linebacker and could be needed next season for depth. The Nittany Lions continue to pursue Harrisburg's Zayd Issah, who committed in June but reopened his recruitment and is considering other options.
Skinny: The Nittany Lions will go from having two of the best 10 overall defensive players in the conference at linebacker to having just one player who has more than one career start. Carson and Hull, who shared time at one position for most of 2012, will be asked to shoulder the load at two spots. Wartman, who showed good instincts and athleticism in his short time on the field, and Kline will be the top candidates for the other spot. Penn State didn't have much depth at the position this fall and will likely be searching for it again during the spring and summer. Opportunities for young players like Wooten and Franklin, as well as run-ons, will be there. An inexperienced front seven could make the linebackers' transition even more difficult. Penn State has the steady hand of Vanderlinden and a defensive coordinator who isn't afraid to take chances in Ted Roof, but there will be more question marks at linebacker heading into 2013 than the Lions have had at the position in some time.