With the 2010s in the rearview mirror, we're ranking the top-five players at each position of the decade, as voted on by the Roar Lions Roar staff. All of this will lead up to the RLR Team of the Decade. We will only be taking into account seasons from 2010-2019, so players like Evan Royster and Devon Still have solely been judged on their seasons during that time frame.
If there's one thing Penn State is known for, it's Linebacker U. Which makes narrowing down the top-five linebackers of the decade even more difficult.
Honorable Mention - Jason Cabinda
- Career Statistics: 285 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles
For most other teams, Jason Cabinda would be a sure-fire selection within the top-five of the decade. Unfortunately for Cabinda, he just missed the cut here, but that shouldn't take away from his incredible career. After being thrust into action as a true freshman, all Cabinda did was improve every year, until he was one of the best 'backers in the conference. His performance against Ohio State in 2016 will never be forgotten. Cabinda signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent and has spent time on both Oakland and Detroit's practice squads and active rosters.
No. 5 - Gerald Hodges
- 246 tackles*, 21 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 3 interceptions
One of the most dynamic linebackers of the early part of the decade, Hodges was a terror, especially when paired with his running mates who appear just above him on this list. Hodges was incredibly versatile and was deployed as a traditional linebacker, pass-rusher, and coverage man with regularity. He was a true chess piece for the early 2010s defenses and even moonlighted as a return man. Hodges was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He spent time with the Vikings, 49ers, Bills, Saints, and Cardinals. He retired in 2019 but shortly thereafter announced his intentions to return to football.
*Hodges also had 3 tackles in 2009
No. 4 - Mike Hull
- 294 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles
Mike Hull's 2014 season, when he took over as the starting middle linebacker, has a great case to be the most impressive individual season by any Penn Stater in the past decade. In 2013 alone, he racked up 138 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. He was a missile of a linebacker and was nearly impossible to escape from on the field. He was a true weapon for Bill O'Brien's defenses and one who struck fear into opposing offenses. He was also responsible for one of the most electric moments in Beaver Stadium whiteout history. Hull was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent and has spent his career either on Miami's active roster or on its practice squad. He missed the 2019 season due to injury.
No. 3 - Michael Mauti
- 183 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 4 interceptions
One of the most recognizable faces in Penn State history, Michael Mauti will forever be remembered in history, along with Michael Zordich, as one of the primary figures behind keeping the 2012 roster together. Aside from all that, he was also a phenomenal football player. Injuries kept him from being an even more statistically-dominant player, but he still made his impact known every time he stepped onto the field. Whether it was arguably outplaying Heisman finalist Manti Te'o in 2012, righting karmic wrongs by just missing a 100-yard pick-six against Illinois, or standing in front of the cameras to pronounce his and his teammates' intentions to remain Nittany Lions, Mauti will forever be a true legend. He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He also spent time with his hometown New Orleans Saints, with whom he scored a punt-block touchdown.
No. 2 - Brandon Bell
- 226 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, 7 forced fumbles
Bell's impact as a leader both on and off the field alone is enough to put him in rarified air (Ayyyyyoooooooo), but his work on the field is arguably the most impressive cumulative stat line of any linebacker of the decade. Bell was incredibly difficult to shake in the open field, was able to rush the passer with incredible effectiveness, and was an absolute beast when it came to covering tight ends and running backs down the field. There was nothing that he couldn't do, and he had a propensity for saving his biggest performances for the biggest games. Against Ohio State in 2016, he racked up 19 tackles (11 solo) and one sack. Against USC in the Rose Bowl, he had a game-changing interception. He was an incredible playmaker and one of the most important members of the 2016 roster that changed everything in Happy Valley. Bell was signed by the Bengals as an undrafted free agent, and after a few years bouncing around, is now on the Seattle Dragons roster in the XFL.
No. 1 - Micah Parsons
- 191 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles
At first glance, you may think we're crazy for having Micah Parsons at No. 1 already. After all, he is just a rising junior. Yet, when you watch Parsons play, there's something different about him. For all of the talent that Penn State has had at the position since 2010, they've never had an athlete quite like Parsons. He moves at a different speed than everyone else on the field, and it shows in the stats. It would not at all be unreasonable to see him pass Hull on the all-time tackles list (294 tackles) before he surely declares for the NFL following his junior season. He also started to unlock his pass-rushing potential in 2019 with 14 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Defensive coordinator Brent Pry is able to use him as a stand-up linebacker, a delayed blitzer, an edge rusher, an interior rusher– you name it, Parsons can do it. He's a true, one-of-a-kind talent, and could end up as one of the greatest linebackers in school history when all is said and done. Now if he could only secure his first interception...
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