But as good as those two are– and there’s a chance both are first-round draft picks when their time comes– they aren’t the only reasons for people to look forward to the future of what’s long been known as “Linebacker U.”
Three freshmen linebackers are coming this season; all three were four-star recruits.
Tony Rojas comes from Fairfax, Virginia, and Kaveion Keys from Richmond. Ta’Mere Robinson’s an in-state product from Pittsburgh.
Rojas and Robinson arrived on campus in January, and Keys came closer to the summer. For Jacobs, who is entering Year 4 with the program, the young guys are progressing “tremendously.”
“We’re trying to drill in the mental aspect on the young guys,” Jacobs told reporters earlier this month after Penn State’s annual Lift for Life Event. “I know that’s part of my game that I struggled early. So being able to get them as ready as possible early that’s great for their game.”
Rojas was the highest-rated of Penn State’s three linebacker signees.
247Sports’ ratings had him as the No. 10 linebacker in the country from his class and the No. 3 overall player in Virginia.
Since coming to Happy Valley in the winter, Rojas has impressed Penn State’s coaching staff, including the big boss.
”He has put on 29 pounds since he’s been here, and it’s good weight,” James Franklin told reporters this past spring on Rojas’ body transformation. I don’t know how that is necessarily possible, but he has put on 29 pounds. Every time I go to the nutrition bar, he is sitting there eating— after practice, he is getting an extra pump in, and he is playing fast and carrying the weight really well.”
For Jacobs, a big key to Rojas becoming a star at Penn State will be his mentality.
“Just putting it all together mentally,” Jacobs said. “I think he can be a really, really great player this year and for years to come. He just has to put it together mentally, and he’s been putting in the work every day, coming in with a great mindset. I’m excited for his future.”
Penn State fans are excited about Rojas’ future as well.
But what about the here and now?
Rojas is projected to backup Jacobs at the SAM linebacker position and could well find himself behind Dom DeLuca, who’s entering his third season with the program and first on scholarship.
Robinson– a versatile player who 247Sports listed as an EDGE– projects to start as a MIKE linebacker, where he’ll likely be behind veterans Tyler Elsdon and Kobe King. Keys projects to backup Carter at the WILL.
Overall, Jacobs knows Penn State LB room– both rookies and vets– has a long way to go.
But he’s happy with the way it’s trending.
“I’m excited about this whole lineup,” he said. “Every linebacker in the room has potential to be great. It’s just untapped. We have to put that work in. So, I’m excited for this upcoming season. I’m excited for us to show what we can do.”