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‘A Premier Player in the Country’: Utah OC, Players Speak Highly of ‘Number 11,’ Penn State LB Abdul Carter

Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Abdul Carter (11) November 12, 2022 David Hague/NSN

LOS ANGELES, C.A.— Maybe Utah players and coaches know the name of Penn State freshman linebacker Abdul Carter, and maybe they don’t.

That sentence sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

How could Utah, who is playing Penn State Monday in the 109th Rose Bowl Game, not know the name of one of its opponents’ best players?

The true freshman is a man that can be a reason that Penn State wins the Rose Bowl for the first time in 28 years and Utah loses “The Grandaddy of Them All” for the second straight year. To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, he’s “kind of a big deal.”

But the concept of Utah’s players not knowing Carter’s name isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds.

When teams watch film, they’re not looking at names. They’re looking at numbers. So as long as Utah has recognized the guy wearing No. 11 for Penn State, its well-aware of what Carter can do.

Does Utah recognize him? You bet.

“I know number 11,” Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig told reporters Friday morning, “the linebacker, is a premier player in the country.”

“Number 11,” Utah QB Cam Rising said. “He’s always going to be a guy that has the red lights around him.”

”Number 11, he’s a great player,” Utah running back Micah Bernard said. “He knows how to use his size, knows how to get around the line. He’s very physical.”

Carter has had the “red lights around him” since well before he got to Penn State. A star at LaSalle College High School near Philadelphia, Carter was a four-star signee who came to Penn State hoping to be “Linebacker U’s” next great one. Before his freshman season, Penn State gave Carter perhaps the most famous jersey number in school history.

In case you don’t know, that number is 11.

“Not everybody gets that number,” Penn State defensive end Adisa Isaac pointed out Friday morning.

Penn State linebacking greats such as LaVar Arrington, Micah Parsons and NaVorro Bowman wore the number before Carter.

So far, Carter has been worthy of 11. Despite not finding a regular starting role with the defense until late October, Carter finished the regular season with the team lead is sacks (6.5), tackles for loss (10.5) and finished second in solo tackles (35), and was a semifinalist for the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award.

Utah knows that stopping or at least neutralizing No. 11 will be big on its Rose Bowl “to do” list.

How do the Utes plan on doing that?

”We just have to go at him,” Bernard said. “We don’t think he wants to be hit so many times. So that’s our game plan. We’re just going to hit him, hit anybody else who tries to hit Cam (Rising). That’s the game plan.”

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