Penn State 2024 Linebackers: Season Preview

Penn State 2024 Linebackers

Penn State 2024 Linebackers: Is It Still Linebacker U?

Penn State, and its defense, has made a name for itself traditionally as “Linebacker U.”  The program has also developed many standouts at other positions. However, the linebackers will continue to hold an important place in the hearts of fans, in the playbook of Tom Allen, and in the success of the Nittany Lions.  The 2024 Penn State linebackers will look to uphold the name Linebacker U.

Tradition of Excellence

The term Linebacker U became a term synonymous with the Nittany Lions program in the 1990s with a long line of successful linebackers that drove the program and the defense.

Penn State legends such as Greg Buttle, Jack Ham, and Lavar Arrington helped set the high standard for Nittany Lions linebackers.  They all played before the 2000’s began.  Since then, the line of success has continued.  Notably, leaders like Paul Posluszny and Micah Parsons have led the Penn State defense, and then gone on to success in the NFL.

Interestingly, the No. 11 has become the key number on the Penn State defense, and in particular with the linebackers.  Matt McGloin notwithstanding, the No. 11 has come with great responsibility on the defensive side of the ball at Penn State.

Importance of the LB Position in 2023

There was not much to complain about regarding the Penn State defense in 2023.  Under the tutelage of coordinator Manny Diaz, the unit led the nation in sacks.  They were also ranked first in yards allowed per game while ranking third in points per game.

The defense also pitched three shutouts during the season.  One was against Iowa, a 31 to zero statement win.  They also shut out UMass and Michigan State.

In the games against tougher competition, the defense competed but had mixed results.  As an example, against the Wolverines, the defense gave up 24 points.  However, of more note/concern, Michigan at one point called 32 consecutive run plays.  This calls the toughness of the defense, including the linebackers, into question.

From a linebacker perspective, the leader of the group, and wearing No. 11 (no surprise) was Abdul Carter.  In his second year, Carter had 56 tackles with four and a half sacks and an interception.  Kobe King, a redshirt sophomore in 2023, contributed 59 tackles with one and a half sacks.  Curtis Jacobs was the elder statesman of the group.  The junior had 50 tackles to go with two and a half sacks.  The group was solid, though not stellar.  It is debatable if the unit lived up to Linebacker U standards.

Consequently, the biggest question for the linebackers heading into 2024 is the toughness that Penn State’s defense has been historically known for.  Can they get the consistent toughness to slow down opponents’ running games and apply pressure on the quarterback?  If so, how?

Penn State 2024 Linebackers: New Coordinator, New Lineup

The Penn State coaching staff will have new coordinators on both sides of the ball. Tom Allen joins the Nittany Lions to guide the defense.  The former Indiana Hoosiers head coach comes to Happy Valley as the new Defensive Coordinator, replacing Diaz. Allen’s official title is Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach.  Allen’s focus will reinforce the importance of the linebackers.

Along with the new coordinator, the Penn State defense will also look different on the field.  Jacobs has moved on and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs. Carter is moving from linebacker to primarily defensive end.

King will be a mainstay in the middle linebacker corps and a leader in the locker room.  Tyler Elsdon will be there to provide depth.  Tony Rojas is expected to contribute at weak side linebacker.  Rojas was a freshman standout on the 2023 team with 22 tackles, a forced fumble, and one interception.  On the other side, Dom Deluca is expected to step in.  The former walk-on has worked hard to make a name for himself.

Obviously, with two new starters in the group (one a former walk-on), depth will be an issue to watch entering 2024.  Every injury will have a big impact, including the serious spring ball injury to backup Keon Wylie.

The Bottom Line: Keeping Penn State Linebacker U?

As Bill Parcells has said, “I like linebackers.  I collect ‘em.  You can’t have too many good ones.”  This rings true, especially at Penn State.  With a strong lineage of star linebackers, as well as recent strong performers at the position, the team has represented the Linebacker U moniker well.

Entering 2024, there is a lot of uncertainty, and corresponding questions, with this unit.  Allen enters as the new Defensive Coordinator.  King takes the reins as the leader of the group.  Rojas and Deluca get their chances.

As a standard, Linebacker U comes with an expected pedigree, which this linebacker unit does not have.  The linebackers’ ultimate success, as well as that of the overall defense and team, rests on the ability to pick up Allen’s system quickly, the newcomers fulfilling their potential, and the ability to stay healthy.  A key question to be answered by the 2024 Penn State linebackers is, can it live up to the expectations of Linebacker U?


Penn State 2024 Linebackers
Photo courtesy:  Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports


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