Breakout players for 2013: No. 2

Linebacker Mike Hull played well this season, but more will be expected in 2013. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

During the next week, NittanyNation will count down the five Penn State players who weren't named to the All-Big Ten teams and are poised for breakout seasons in 2013.

The No. 2 breakout player: LB Mike Hull, rising redshirt junior

Hull mulled a transfer before the season but eventually decided to stay -- thanks, in part, to Michael Mauti -- and contributed heavily toward Penn State's defensive success in 2012 as the No. 4 linebacker.

With the graduations of Mauti and Gerald Hodges, Hull will play an even larger role in 2013. He could be the next great athlete at Linebacker U and possesses a rare blend of speed and strength. Granted, a lot of Hull's teammates could say they're fast and strong ... but not like Hull.

The 6-foot standout maxed out at 405 pounds on the bench press during the summer, the heaviest repetition among all players. When he first arrived at Penn State, longtime defensive coordinator Tom Bradley even tried him out at safety because he ran a hand-timed 4.5 -- and a laser-timed 4.6 -- but he played more naturally at linebacker.

Hull was a big-play magnet in 2012 who was especially strong against the pass, and he'll bring a lot to this defense as a starter. He's not the tallest of the front-seven -- actually, he'll probably be the shortest -- but he has the ability and drive to wind up as one of the top players on this defense. He definitely has a bright future and is primed for a breakout season in 2013.

Quotables: "Mike Hull, here's a guy that's been our fourth linebacker all year; he's made big plays for us on defense and special teams. He's an instinctive guy, he's a Pittsburgh guy, he's a football guy. ... This guy is a rock-solid football dude, so he's going to go in there and play as hard as he can, and it's going to be fun to watch him play." -- Bill O'Brien