Healthy Hull matters greatly for PSU football team

UNIVERSITY PARK – Mike Hull couldn’t give his full focus to making big plays last year, not after suffering a knee injury in the opener and dealing with it all season.

“There’s a point where you’re just out there trying to survive rather than play your best and focus on what’s ahead of you,” said the Penn State linebacker, who missed two games a year ago.

“There’s no excuses,” the senior added. “Injuries are part of the game, and you have to play through them. Unfortunately last year it was early in the season for me, and I just kind of had to deal with it the whole time.”

When healthy, Hull is one of Penn State’s best players. He showed his big-play abilities the first two years of his career with two blocked punts and a 74-yard fumble return for a TD.

Even playing hurt last year, he still finished second on the team with 78 tackles while also forcing one fumble and recovering another.

Hull wouldn’t disclose what percent healthy he was a year ago, but it definitely wasn’t 100 percent. How well can he play if he’s 100 percent this season?

“I would definitely be a lot more productive than I was last year, be able to do a lot more things, use my speed more to my advantage like I did the previous year,” Hull said.

It won’t just be important for Hull to stay healthy for the Nittany Lions. It will be vital.

This is one of the most suspect linebacker units Penn State has had in years, with very little depth and equally little experience. The Lions virtually never go into a season with linebacker being a big concern, but that is definitely the case this year.

“We need to keep as many guys healthy as possible; we’re limited on numbers,” Hull said.

Easing some critics’ concerns, Hull did add that he thinks the linebackers will be “all right.”

“We’ve got a lot of ‘Mike’ and ‘Will’ type guys – me, Brandon Bell, Nyeem (Wartman) – and if we need to we could put bigger safeties out there,” Hull said. “We’ve got a lot of rangy defensive backs that are tall now, and they’re real versatile, so I think that will help us so we can have more competition inside with linebackers.”

Hull is moving to middle linebacker, which he played some two years ago before going outside last season. He expects a smooth transition since he’s familiar with the spot.

It didn’t take long for Hull to make a good impression on new coach James Franklin, who said the linebacker played “extremely well” in the spring.

That’s what most everyone expects of Hull, if healthy, this season.

How about his own expectations?

“Just be the best player I can be for my team, make big plays, make solid plays, tackles for loss, really do anything that I can to put the offense in a bad position,” he said.