Coach Bill O’Brien almost made it through the injury report at the beginning of his weekly press conference Tuesday without mentioning anything more than “typical week four bumps and bruises.”
But, there was still one notable player unable to be dubbed fully healthy.
“The one guy that is day-to-day would be Michael Hull. He’s sore,” O’Brien said of the starting linebacker. “Yesterday and Monday, he was sore. We’re going to watch him at practice and see how he does.”
After injuring his knee early in the Syracuse game, Hull sat out the following contest against Eastern Michigan before returning to action in the loss to Central Florida this past weekend. But, the redshirt junior did not start and appeared to still be affected by the lingering injury in the Nittany Lions’ poor defensive effort against the Knights.
Hull finished the game with four tackles and showed some flashes of his ability prior to the injury — including a tackle he combined to have on running back Storm Johnson to force the Knights into a three-and-out situation immediately following the Lions’ first score.
However, Hull was often slow to return to his position in between plays, and rarely appeared to be full strength while attempting to energize a struggling Lions’ defense that gave up more than 500 yards of offense Saturday.
Fellow linebacker Glenn Carson confirmed Hull was not fully healthy on a conference call Tuesday, but said he expects his teammate’s impact to continue to grow as the season progresses.
“He’s a real tough guy, and he wanted to get back on the field as soon as he could for the team, but I don’t think he was 100 percent healthy out there this weekend,” Carson said. “I do think that this week is going to be a huge week healing-wise for him.”
Offensive tackle Adam Gress said it was no surprise to Hull’s teammates that the linebacker fought through the injury, saying he’s always one to play when “just a little banged up.”
Still, the Lions would certainly benefit from a full-strength Hull, who finished sixth on the team in tackles in 2012 with 58, despite starting just one game.
Penn State had few sure tacklers playing at their best against the Knights Saturday, and Hull’s inability to play the whole game meant converted safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong’s stint as a pseudo-linebacker continued.
After looking at the tape, Carson said he noticed several alignment issues and miscommunications among the defense, which he at least partly took the blame for as the anchor of the unit.
But, the senior said having Hull at 100 percent would allow the talented linebacker’s full array of talents to show, thus allowing the defense to be at its best.
“It’s really unfortunate that he had to get hurt, especially so early in the season,” Carson said. “But, he’s a heart-and-soul guy on the defense. He has that field presence and when he gets healthy, he’s going to definitely play an important factor on defense.”
John Stuetz can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828.
Follow him on Twitter at @JohnStuetz_PSU.