The Penn State Nittany Lions head into the 2013 season having to replace All-Big Ten linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. While replacing two of the three starting linebackers from a season ago is already a tall order, recent events have made it even tougher as the depth chart continues to dwindle.
Along with the two stars, reserves Michael Yancich and Jamie Van Fleet also graduated.
Glenn Carson, a starter in 2012, and Mike Hull are locks to take two of the three spots. Redshirt freshman Nyeem Wartman is on track to claim the final starting spot.
Though the starters are all but set, the depth behind them is what could cause problems for the Nittany Lions this year. There is a clear lack of experience, with only four linebackers on the current roster who having seen playing time in their college careers.
There are now just five linebackers, Hull, Carson, Wartman, Ben Kline and Gary Wooten, on scholarship at Penn State.
2013 recruit Zayd Issah was expected to compete for playing time, but has temporarily lost his scholarship due to his legal troubles. Nate Bauer of Blue White Illustrated broke the news over the past weekend.
Nate Bauer @NateBauerBWI
Sources tell @BWISnyder PSU recruit Zayd Issah scholarship pulled, at least temporarily. Details here - http://t.co/I6PY8sWF1H2013-3-30 22:07:38
Even before the Issah situation, the Nittany Lions were facing depth chart issues at linebacker.
Kline is dealing with a shoulder issue that will keep him out of spring practice. 2012 linebacker recruit Brennan Franklin left the program in January for personal reasons. 2013 3-star recruit Jonathan Walton rescinded his commitment to Penn State in January after former defensive coordinator Ted Roof decided to join the staff at Georgia Tech.
3-star recruit Brandon Bell will be needed to add depth when he joins the team over the summer, especially if fellow recruit Issah is permanently off the team.
Penn State is known as Linebacker U because of its great tradition of continuing to produce solid players at that position.
Ironically, that's perhaps the weakest area of the 2013 team. Though the starting three will be a talented group, the remaining depth will provide a challenge to the coaching staff. The Nittany Lions are going to need guys to step up and try to offset how thin the linebacker position is going to be in 2013.