"The game has changed," Shoop said. "This isn't 20 years when it was rock'em, sock'em robots running downhill. There's more skilled athletes on the field than ever before. Defensively, what you're trying to do is maximize your athletic ability."
But to stand up to the power of the Big Ten East rivals Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, Penn State will need Hull and company to develop.
"I think Penn State has that mentality of being tough and trying to stop the run whenever they try to line it up and play smashmouth football," Hull said.
The fifth-year senior missed some time last year with a knee injury but still made 78 tackles in 10 games.
"He had a great spring for us," Franklin said. "He's a guy that not only has the physcial tools in terms of being able to run, being able to change directions. Freakishly strong. But he processes information fast as well. You watch the tape; and the offense is running a counter play, they start out going this way and everybody on the defense takes three steps in that direction. Hull takes two and is already moving in the other direction."
Hull moves from the outside to the middle linebacker. The shift comes with added responsibility.
"We're going to need him to be really verbal," Franklin said. "He's more comfortable doing that now than ever before"
To get ready for the new gig, Hull doubled down on film study this offseason.
"The biggest thing I needed to improve on was mentally, being ready to take on the mental challenge of getting everyone all set up on the defense," he said. "Being decisive."
And trying to hold up Penn State's Linebacker U. tradition.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP