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Trio Leading Linebacker Corps During Spring

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's starting linebackers are a unique a blend of youth and experience.

Senior Glenn Carson is the veteran of the group with 24 career starts.  Mike Hull is the rising junior who has been in the program and done just about everything for the Nittany Lions on defense and special teams, but start.  Nyeem Wartman is the talented redshirt freshman ready to bust onto the scene.

8825622.jpegTogether, the trio has meshed together during spring drills to become a cohesive unit looking to make plays and anchor the Penn State defense when the season commences on Aug. 31 at MetLife Stadium.

"I think our three linebackers that are in starting spots right now (Glenn Carson, Mike Hull, Nyeem Wartman), I believe that they are very, very good players.  They're tough guys, they're smart guys, and they're instinctive players," head coach Bill O'Brien said.

Carson, who made 85 tackles in 2012, took a step forward in the weight room during the offseason.  He is ready to become the next force in the middle of the Lion defensive unit.  The New Jersey native is a tough, hard-nosed linebacker with the size to be a physical player in the heart of the defense.

Hull proved in 2012 that he can do anything Penn State needs him to do.  While he is yet to start a game, the Canonsburg, Pa. native played an integral part in the linebacker rotation and was an ace on special teams last season.  He finished sixth on the team in tackles with 58 stops.  Always close to the football, Hull's highlight of the 2012 season came in the Navy game when he scooped up a loose ball and raced 74 yards for a touchdown in the 34-7 victory.

Now, given the opportunity to step into the starting lineup, the junior is evolving into one of Penn State's top players on defense.

Carson and Hull are close off the field, and they both complement one another very well on the field.

"We work really well together," Hull said.  "Glenn (Carson) and I have played together.  We have been in the program for a long time and we feel comfortable as a group."

"Mike and I are really good friends," Carson said.  "He is a guy that I really like playing next to.  He's a physical guy.  He's competitive.  He loves to win."

Carson and Hull are bringing Wartman up to speed in his initial action in the Penn State starting rotation.  The Philadelphia native has good speed and athleticism at outside linebacker.  Through four weeks of spring practice, Wartman has improved every time he has stepped onto the field.  Like Hull, Wartman has the tools to be a breakout player for Penn State in the fall.

Collectively, Hull said the group is focused on making plays for the defense.

"We are definitely a lot further ahead than we were last year, mostly because Coach Butler has made it easy for us to learn assignments and keeping the scheme pretty similar," Hull said.

Familiarity with the style of defense defensive coordinator John Butler wants Penn State to play has helped the Lions approach practice this spring with instinctive play.

"You are just out there reacting; you aren't thinking about things," Hull said.  "You are focused on making plays instead of worrying about where you are supposed to be."

Behind Carson, Hull and Wartman, the Nittany Lions are working to create depth at linebacker.  Carson and Coach O'Brien think that process is moving in the right direction.

"We definitely need to grow a little bit more, depth-wise," Carson said.  "But those guys are motivated.  They had a great winter, and they have had a good spring of practices.  Judging off of that, I think they are going to grow and fill into the roles that they need to."

"I do think that there's some guys behind them that can help us that have improved," O'Brien said.  "Gary Wooten has definitely improved over the spring.  Ben Kline has been out with a shoulder deal but he's been in non-contact type drills and he'll be back in training camp. We got a freshman coming in, in Brandon Bell that we think can help us, but there's not a lot of guys there. We certainly have to do a good job the rest of the spring and obviously over summer and into training camp of making sure that Carson, Hull and Wartman are as healthy as they possibly can be going into the opener."

The spring season has been a positive one for a collection of linebackers improving each time they step onto the field.  With continued work in the film room and on the field, the Nittany Lion linebackers are poised to play a paramount role in the success of the defense in 2013.

"We are playing a lot faster.  We are communicating a lot better," Hull said.  "Communication is the key if you want to be a great defense."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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