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2023 Spring Position Previews: Linebackers

Abdul Carter <3

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 29 Ohio State at Penn State Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

BSD’s position-by-position preview continues with the linebackers. While Penn State said goodbye to Jonathan Sutherland, the Nittany Lions appear well-stocked for this group to take a step forward — led by a familiar number.

Projected Starters

Abdul Carter

Oh, yes. Stix City is alive and well in Happy Valley. Following a tremendous freshman campaign that saw him finish with 56 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, it’s safe to say that the expectations for Abdul Carter this year are sky high. While Penn State has been fortunate to have some absolute savages don #11 over the years — Lavar Arrington, Navorro Bowman, Brandon Bell, and Micah Parsons — Carter is well on his way to etching his name in Penn State lore.

Oh, and he now weighs 249 pounds, up from the 233 pounds he was listed at in 2022. Have fun, Big Ten defenses, y’all are gonna need it.

Curtis Jacobs

Despite some flirtation with the NFL Draft, Jacobs is back at Penn State for his senior season. That’s very good news for the Nittany Lions, as Jacobs is expected to switch back over to his Sam role he played in 2021. That should benefit both parties here, as Jacobs should increase his draft stock while Penn State will be able to play both Carter and Jacobs together more often than they did last season.

While Jacobs on-the-field play will be important, just as important is his leadership. With Penn State seeing so many former captains leave the program — Sean Clifford, PJ Mustipher, the aforementioned Sutherland, etc. — it’ll be imperative that Jacobs steps up as a potential captain too.

Kobe King

I am sticking with my prediction from the winter: Kobe King will get the starting nod over Tyler Elsdon. Of course, I expect both of them to see a good bit of playing time, but I just think King offers you a bit higher upside while having basically the same floor as Elsdon. That proves true in their stats from last season, when Elsdon (44 tackles, 3.5 TFLs) and King (41 tackles, 4 TFLs) had similar production despite the fact that Elsdon saw about 100 more snaps over the course of the season.

Likely Backups

Tyler Elsdon, Dom DeLuca, Keon Wylie, Tony Rojas

Dom DeLuca is back and is now a scholarship boy, and should continue to thrive in his role as the Sam backup while being a special teams stalwart. Honestly, wouldn’t be surprised if DeLuca gets the #0 from the departed Sutherland.

Keon Wylie should have some sort of role in the rotation this coming season, even if it’s spelling Abdul Carter for a series or two and playing on special teams. He’s another guy who should look *much* different physically since the last time we saw him. Wylie was listed at 206 pounds as a freshman, but has since been updated to 217. Still a work in progress, but wouldn’t be surprised if that number is closer to 225 by the time August rolls around.

Last but not least, keep an eye on the early enrollee Tony Rojas. Beyond the decently strong depth chart, one of the factors that had led people to believe that he will redshirt this upcoming season was the fact he was enrolling at Penn State around 195 pounds. That — in just a few short months on campus — is already being taken care of, with Rojas now listed at 214 pounds. Like Wylie, that number should continue to increase as we head toward the late summer.