With Penn State’s spring football practices on the not-so-distant horizon, the Nittany Lions are continuing to move past the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
By this point in time, the cloud hanging over Happy Valley from the scandal is slowly departing, and coach Bill O’Brien is forging onward by bringing in a talented recruiting class.
Looking back at the up-and-down year that was 2012 at Penn State, both good and bad can be seen.
The terrible Sandusky scandal that unfolded and led to NCAA sanctions was one of the darkest moments in the history of Penn State.
And yet the persistence and leadership that emerged from the ashes of a disgraced university and football program, led by Bill O’Brien and seniors such as Michael Mauti and Matt McGloin, was an insight into what direction the program was headed.
Mauti was the heart and soul of the Nittany Lions throughout 2012, leading the team both on the field and off of it. The fifth-year senior was arguably as instrumental in saving the program as O’Brien was.
But now the season is over, and Mauti is moving on.
So must Penn State.
What Mauti did in 2012 was no easy task—leading the team in tackles (until a knee injury) along with being the vocal leader on the defensive side of the ball.
So how can Penn State replace a player whose number was worn on the helmet of every player on Senior Day in Happy Valley?
It’s more a question of who, not how.
Mauti’s presence off the field will never be replicated, simply because the program most likely won't face the adversity that was present in 2012.
Nonetheless, someone will need to emerge as the new leader on a defense that lost four of its top five tacklers.
That someone will be middle linebacker Glenn Carson.
Carson came into the 2012 season in the shadow of both Mauti and Gerald Hodges even though he started in 12 games during his sophomore season in 2011.
As a three-year starter and a senior, Carson will be one of the most experienced players on the entire team in 2013. And although he might not be the same type of leader that Mauti was, he will be the one who steps into that role.
On the field, Carson should have no trouble leading defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s scheme. Over the past two seasons, Carson has been in the top four on the team in tackles, collecting 159 total tackles and two forced fumbles.
Off the field is where Carson will have to step up, but the 2011 Academic All-Big Ten honoree shouldn’t have much trouble getting the team behind him.
The question of how Penn State will replace Mauti is one that can’t be answered. What he did for Penn State was unique, as were the circumstances.
But who will be leading the Nittany Lions defense next season is a completely different question.
Carson has the talent and brains to be the top player and leader for Roof and the Penn State defense.