Penn State Football: Where Does Linebacker U Go from Here?

Troy WellerContributor IIIDecember 6, 2013

Apr 20, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden walks on the field prior to the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Rumors started spreading on Monday afternoon that linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher were out as Penn State staffers. While the reasoning and nature weren't clear, speculation arose that both had been let go by head coach Bill O'Brien.

But by Tuesday, the program had issued a press release confirming the changes, but said the two had "resigned to pursue other opportunities".

What those opportunities might be are unclear at the moment, but David Jones of PennLive suggests that Vanderlinden's departure may result from a difference of philosophies between him and O'Brien:

So, I am left with making an educated estimate of the situation just based on what I know of these two men, their backgrounds, their personalities and their coaching acumen.

What I think it comes down to is style, demeanor and two different ways to skin a cat. Neither are right or wrong, just different.

The conclusion that Jones seems to draw is that the ideas of both Vanderlinden and O'Brien weren't cohesive. We might not know why that is, but it would be easy to speculate that it was a schematic issue.

Regardless of how and why the changes came to be, O'Brien now has to fill the void left by of an outstanding position coach and equally valuable recruiter.

So where does Linebacker U go from here? 

Let me begin by saying that this change isn't the end of the world. While Vanderlinden was an integral part of continuing the Linebacker U tradition, he didn't start it. He's only been on staff at Penn State since 2001. Penn State has a long list of great linebackers that predates his era. 

Now—from a recruiting standpoint—Bill O'Brien first needs to make sure that Vanderlinden's departure doesn't cause too much of a stir among Penn State's 2014 recruiting class. Vanderlinden was one of the staff's top recruiters, who helped get many a prospects to State College.

So far so good in terms of damage control, according to The Daily Collegian's John McGonigal:

As for the on-field product, there's always the possibility that Penn State could change schemes. That would explain a possible difference of opinion, especially since Vanderlinden was a traditional 4-3 base defense guy. It's uncertain if Penn State would consider a switch to a 3-4 base defense, but that theory would lend some backbone to Jones' opinion.

No matter which route the Nittany Lions end up going, the linebackers coach next season will be inheriting two guys who made big contributions in 2013.

Mike Hull and Brandon Bell will return to help anchor the unit. Hull was in the starting rotation from the onset of the year, recording 78 total tackles.

Bell, a freshman, didn't see the field too much until late in the year. The coaching staff wanted to use a redshirt on him, but he played so well on special teams that they decided to utilize him immediately. In seven games, he notched 24 tackles and a forced fumble. 

The Nittany Lions will need to replace Glenn Carson in the middle, who had one of the more productive careers of Penn State's recent senior class. In 2014, look for redshirt sophomore Ben Kline to slide in between Hull and Bell to complete the unit. 

Add Nyeem Wartman to the mix, and Penn State has four guys with valuable playing time ready to step up next season. Whoever Penn State's linebackers coach is next year will inherit a group of guys who understand the position and play it "the Penn State way". 

He'll have Ron Vanderlinden to thank for that.