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Counterpoint: Linebacker is Penn State's Biggest Strength in 2015

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The combination of leadership, experience, and talent will ensure that Linebackers are the strength of Penn State Football coming into 2015.

It's the Linebackers. Linebackers are the strength of the team.
It's the Linebackers. Linebackers are the strength of the team.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

So far in this series, we've seen the unit with arguably the best player combo on our roster, the unit with arguably the most potential on our roster, the unit that's arguably the deepest in our roster, and the unit with arguably the best upgrade in talent in recent memory. These are all great units, and I have little doubt they will perform admirably this upcoming season. But the biggest strength coming into 2015 is Penn State's staple, the linebackers.

Let's state the obvious for a second: we're Linebacker U. And we're Linebacker U for a reason. This season is no different. Remember in 2013 when hurt players had to stay on the field because we didn't have anybody? No longer a thing. Remember last year when we had to throw true freshmen to the fire because we lost a few guys? No longer a thing. Linebackers went from being one of the most sanction-depleted units on the team to one of the few units with a full 3-deep. Coming into 2015, we a have perfect combination of experience, talent, and leadership. Let's explore.

Leadership

Mike Hull was such an impactful player for us last year that our other ‘backers were able to fly under the radar. Their performances were nonetheless admirable. Some of the returning guys were took over games just like Hull did, and it showed in the stats:

Nyeem Wartman-White

2012

Games: 2
Tackles: 1, 1 solo
Sacks: 0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Interceptions: 0

2013

Games: 12
Tackles: 32, 17 solo, 2.5 for loss
Sacks: 1
Forced Fumbles: 1
Interceptions: 0

2014

Games: 12
Tackles: 75, 32 solo, 3.5 for loss
Sacks: 0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Interceptions: 1, 13 yards

Wartman-White's leadership cannot be denied. Dude went as far as changing his last name to honor his mother. Wartman-White ended up taking a medical redshirt in 2012, but he immediately made his presence felt in 2013. He played aggressively, and if not for some dropped balls, he'd have some interceptions in the stat sheet as well. In 2014, he had as many solo tackles as he had total tackles in 2013. Having the most experience of the bunch, he'll be ready to take over games in 2015 the same way Mike Hull did last year, almost assuredly at MLB. Here's to hoping the trend of matching solo-for-total tackles continues.

A little bonus, he had one punt return for 7 yards in 2012, because Bill O'Brien is the Honey Badger.

Brandon Bell

2013

Games: 10
Tackles: 24, 14 solo
Sacks: 0
Forced Fumbles: 1
Interceptions: 0

2014

Games: 11
Tackles: 47, 23 solo, 7 for loss
Sacks: 2
Forced Fumbles: 0
Interceptions: 1

Brandon Bell wasted no time making a name for himself in the linebacker rotation, making the Big Ten All-Freshman in 2013. Bell is a dynamic, aggressive player, whose game is not too dissimilar to Wartman-White's. Bell got the starting nod in 2014, and like 2013, he wasted zero time making the most of his opportunity. Everybody remembers Hull and Zettel for their performances against Ohio State last year, but Bell had himself a 13-tackle, 1-sack game that night. He was a force to be reckoned with. Also, he almost matched Wartman-White's feat of having as many solo tackles in 2014 as he had total tackles in 2013. Bell is certainly poised to have a breakout season in 2015, if you can even call it that. And lastly, who can forget the twitter exchange between LaVar and him after Bell decided to switch to number 11?

Ben Kline

Mostly forgotten by some due to his injuries, Ben Kline is ready to come back and hungry. Described as a machine by his teammate Carl Nassib, Ben has put in the work this offseason, rehabbed his Achilles injury, and is ready to compete for a starting job. Not only that, his teammates describe his leadership capabilities in the same vein as Mike Hull's. That's always good to hear.

This is the guy who played through a torn pectoral muscle against Minnesota in 2013, and still did a pretty good job in that game. Here are the stats:

2012

Games: 11
Tackles: 18, 9 solo
Sacks: 0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Interceptions: 0

2013

Games: 6
Tackles: 18, 9 solo, 1.5 for loss
Sacks: 1
Forced Fumbles: 0
Interceptions: 0

These may not look like much on the surface, but there is one thing to consider: in 2013, Kline matched his production from 2012 in almost half the games. Count me in with the people who would like to see what he's able to do in a full season.

Experience

My projected starters above have shown to have the leadership needed to excel at the position. However, the projected backups have been around the block. These guys have seen enough action to be compete for a starting job. They're talented, versatile, and most importantly, experienced:

Jason Cabinda

2014

Games: 5
Tackles: 17, 7 solo
Sacks: 0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Interceptions: 0

Cabinda was forced on the field due to lack of bodies against Northwestern, and it turned out to be his best game of the year. He may have looked lost at times, but as the season progressed, he started to settle down let the game come to him. I wouldn't be surprised if Cabinda spends a lot of time on the field this season, and may end up in a starting spot.

Von Walker

When a walk on earns himself a scholarship, you he's doing something right. Walker has shown time and again that he's a competitive guy who won't stop doing work. Walker has served as a backup for most of his career, switching from running back to linebacker (for good) last year. He probably won't threaten to start, but rest assured, when the starters do need a rest, Von Walker will be there to hold the fort.

2014

Games: 12
Tackles: 12, 5 solo, 1 for loss
Sacks: 0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Interceptions: 0

Gary Wooten

Wooten may be the least heralded of all these guys, he's definitely no slouch. He's joined the team along with Wartman-White, so he's been around for a bit. He knows the team and what is expected of them. Like Walker, he probably won't be competing for a starting spot, but he's provided solid time in relief duty. I don't see that changing anytime soon.

2012

Redshirt

2013

Games: 10
Tackles: 6, 3 solo
Sacks: 0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Interceptions: 0

2014

Games: 8
Tackles: 12, 5 solo, 1.5 for loss
Sacks: 0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Interceptions: 0

Talent

The six above are our known commodities, but it doesn't end there. We have a talented group of guys waiting in the wings, some of which could push for playing time from day 1.

Koa Farmer and Troy Reeder redshirted last season and are ready to play. The true freshmen, Daiquan Kelly, Jake Cooper, Manny Bowen, should all take a redshirt this season, but don't be surprised if one of them ends up in the rotation.

Consistency. Experience. Leadership. Talent. Hunger. Those are all words that describe our linebackers this season. The combination of all of these attributes makes one clear: Penn State's biggest strength in 2015 is the Linebackers. As it should be.