Series note: This is the sixth in a 10-part series examining 10 Penn State football players to watch through the 2013 season.
Glenn Carson is embracing his role as the guy this season for Penn State’s defense, and rightfully so — he’s coming off an 85-tackle season and no longer will be playing in the shadow of now-NFL linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges.
However, the soft-spoken state champion high school wrestler from Manahawkin, N.J., once did not possess the mental fortitude to take on this kind of a leadership role that he does now.
“I was always a pretty modest kid and, if anything, I sort of had a lack of confidence when it came to football,” Carson said earlier this month, looking back on his younger football years. “It kind of hurt me in some ways. But, it’s just been a blessing to be a part of Linebacker ‘U,’ starting for two years now and going into my third year.”
Carson said this mental turnaround began for him in the spring before his sophomore season, when he had 74 tackles after having just 12 the season prior. The senior middle linebacker finished third on the team in tackles in 2012, behind Mauti and Hodges, and ended the year with his best statistical performances of the season — leading the team with 34 tackles in the last three games.
While Carson said he doesn’t focus as much on the increase in his personal stats over time, he has gained confidence through in-game improvements, which he primarily notices when watching himself on film.
“It’s just the small things,” Carson said. “I’m a lot more comfortable and the game has slowed down for me. I don’t judge by how many tackles I made and what-not, but you can definitely see how I’ve progressed.”
Carson will likely continue to stand out on tape more than ever this season — which will be kicked off with a return to his home state against Syracuse in MetLife stadium on Saturday — now that two All-Big Ten linebackers have moved on to the next level.
Coach Bill O’Brien said at Big Ten Media Day in July that he trusts his defensive leadership will remain in good hands, primarily because Carson already began serving as a leader prior to this year.
“Glenn is certainly a guy you would describe as a high-character guy, very intense, heart-and-soul type of guy,” O’Brien said. “Glenn's not a real rah-rah guy. Glenn is very serious about his position as the middle linebacker at Penn State. He understands the tradition of linebackers at Penn State and obviously Linebacker ‘U.’”
And with a large amount of his family expected in East Rutherford on Saturday, fans should anticipate a revved up Carson embracing the spotlight.
“I’m not the young guy, so it’s my turn to take it over as a leader and be the alpha male out there,” Carson said of his role this season.
John Stuetz can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnStuetz_PSU.