Penn State may be 5-0 and ranked No. 6 nationally, exceeding most expectations by blowing through its first five opponents. But Nittany Lion fans have still found a whipping boy.
It is starting middle linebacker Josh Hull, a redshirt junior who entered the program as a walk-on. Though Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno seemed a bit irritated when told Hull has been heavily criticized by fan, the player himself refuses to get fired up over it.
I'm aware of some of the criticism, Hull said. I've taken it as it comes. You're going to experience some good; you're going to experience some bad. You don't let the negative experiences affect you in a negative way. I'm going to move on and get better every day at practice.
Hull was thrust into the starting middle linebacker job in the spring, when All-America candidate Sean Lee tore an ACL and was lost for the 2008 season. Though Hull said he looks to Lee for guidance, he has not talked to him about the criticism. If he ever discussed it with anybody, he explained, it would be his family.
One of the reasons for the criticism has been a lack of numbers. Through five games in 2007, middle linebacker Dan Connor had 49 tackles and Lee, playing outside, had 52. Through five games this season, Hull has 21 tackles, none of them for losses.
I'm not quite sure why that number is so low, Hull said. I'm just focused on making all the plays that I'm supposed to be making. I do have the confidence to make the plays that I should be making in my position.
Watching film earlier this week of Penn State 38-24 win over Illinois last Saturday, there was something Hull saw that he felt he needed to work on.
Just being more physical at the point of impact, shedding blocking better than I have been, he said.