Hull, former Penn State standouts ready for NFL draft waiting game


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — If you're looking for Mike Hull during this week's NFL draft, don't expect to find him in front of a TV or a computer.

The former Penn State middle linebacker, projected to be a mid--to-late-round pick, will heed the advice of former teammates Michael Mauti and John Urschel. Hull won't get caught up wondering if pre-draft visits with teams meant anything or if his undersized stature limits interest.

"I probably won't watch it," Hull said. "I heard that's like the worst thing you can do. I'll probably be monitoring it and have my phone close by, but I might go fishing or just hang out with my family somewhere and try to keep my mind off it as much as I can."

A 6-foot, 237-pound former Canon-McMillan High School standout, Hull understands he'll need to make his mark on special teams in order to have a chance to stick in the league. The Big Ten's reigning Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year is no stranger to answering questions about his size. He said once teams met with him in the pre-draft process and worked him out, they left with a better understanding of his abilities.

Hull worked out with Tampa Bay, met with a New Orleans scout and talked with the Houston Texans, to name a few.

He played under four defensive coordinators at Penn State, and Texans coach Bill O'Brien was Hull's head coach for two years. Teams ask about the linebacker's willingness to play special teams, something Hull did as a freshman and sophomore before being slowed by an injury his junior year. He points to special teams film from games against Northwestern and Ohio State as an underclassman when he sprinted down the field looking for somebody, anybody, to hit.

"The interest is there, especially in a special teams role," Hull said. "But you never know what's going to happen until the draft."

Hull won't be alone in the waiting game as former Penn State teammates Jesse James, Donovan Smith, Adrian Amos, Deion Barnes and Sam Ficken are among the many players who will wait to see where they're headed. Penn State is expected to have several undrafted players in the market for free-agent contracts, as well.

Smith, who joins James and Barnes as Penn State's three underclassmen who declared, will be in Chicago attending the draft. Teams in need of a left tackle will be intrigued by Smith's 6-6, 338-pound NFL-ready build. Smith could be the first Nittany Lion off the board with some analysts projecting him as high as a first- or second-round pick.

James, whose athleticism and strength made for a rare combination for a 6-7 tight end, could be among the top five at his position. Still, where James excels is catching passes and stretching the field. Questions about his blocking popped up throughout the draft process, but he is a projected third- or fourth-round selection.

Amos, a versatile cornerback who also played safety, could go as high as the third round.