Prior to the team's departure for Ireland Tuesday evening, Mike Hull has been strolling around Penn State's campus to the beat of a new drum. And the fifth-year senior said he likes the sound of it so far.
"I definitely feel a lot more confident now, knowing the type of person I am, the type of player that I am, [compared to] when I first got here," the linebacker said Tuesday afternoon. "Personally, you don't know what to expect coming into a new football program. So I think I'm really confident heading into the season and I'm really excited for it."
Hull is expected to anchor the Nittany Lions' defense in 2014, following an injury-marred junior season that still resulted in 78 tackles — good for second on the team behind graduated linebacker Glenn Carson.
Hull was named to the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker. And after a switch from outside to middle linebacker, he will likely have a good chance to stand out this fall, when he'll be leading an inexperienced linebacker corps.
But more than this personnel switch, teammates say the biggest difference for the traditionally soft-spoken Hull over the offseason has been in his demeanor.
"Since Mike Hull's been here, he's always done stuff by example, leading by example," defensive end C.J. Olaniyan said. "But this year, starting off with spring ball going into camp, he's become more of a vocal leader, getting after guys, letting guys know what they need to do. And he's picking guys up when they need to be picked up, which is going to be great for us this year."
Hull didn't shy away from accepting this responsibility as early as the upcoming trip to Dublin, where the Lions will take on Central Florida Saturday.
And although he said he looks forward to sight-seeing, whether it's checking out the Guinness Storehouse or Irish schools, Hull made sure to note it falls on his and other seniors' shoulders to reiterate the "business trip" mentality to the rest of the team.
"You've got to make sure guys are on the same page, doing the right things all the time," Hull said. "At the end of the day, winning is going to be the deciding factor of whether or not the trip is going to be a success or a failure."