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‘A Win-Win for Everybody’: Penn State HC James Franklin Explains Abdul Carter Changing Positions

Abdul Carter gets the crowd loud before a big third down against Iowa. (Photo by Matt Lynch, Nittany Sports Now)

One of Penn State football’s best players is undergoing a position switch, and that’s not new news.

Toward the middle of February, Abdul Carter’s position on the Penn State website moved from linebacker, where he spent his first two seasons, to defensive end.

His head coach, James Franklin, hadn’t addressed media since that news got out, and the first question of this year’s spring season— asked by the Athletic’s Audrey Snyder— was about Carter’s switch to DE.

Although Carter was a four-star linebacker coming out of LaSalle College High School in the Philly Area, Franklin thought he was a defensive end.

But he said Carter and his father, Christopher, both felt he was best at linebacker.

“The reality is we just wanted (Carter) in our program and knew he was going to be a really good player wherever he decided to play,” Franklin said.

But after his second season, Carter had a change of heart.

“He really wanted to make this move,” Franklin said, “I think for a number of reasons. “We’re excited about it.”

Penn State and its fans would have had plenty of reason to be excited about Carter even if he stayed at linebacker.

Wearing the famous No. 11, which had previously been worn by Penn State legends such as LaVar Arrington, Micah Parsons and NaVorro Bowman, Carter became a freshman All-American. He was also one of four finalists for the Shaun Alexander Award presented to the nation’s top freshman. 

In year two, Carter was a first-team all-Big Ten selection. But less than two months after Carter’s second season ended, Carter made a change, and part of the reason Franklin and co. feel comfortable about that change is because of what’s in the current linebackers room.

Players such as Tony Rojas, Dominic DeLuca and Kobe King are back from last season, and King’s a returning starter.

At defensive end, Penn State’s losing a pair of studs in projected first-rounder Chop Robinson and Adisa Isaac, who is expected to be a second-round pick at worst.

Although there’s still a strong group of defensive ends coming back, led by Dani Dennis-Sutton and featuring Zuriah Fisher, Amin Vanover and Jameial Lyons, Carter’s production will be appreciated at that position.

“We feel really good about the current room but obviously being able to inject Abdul into that room as well I think is going to be a positive for us,” Franklin said.

At 250 pounds, Carter isn’t a small guy, and Franklin described him as “kind of on the bubble of struggling, I think, to keep his weight.”

“In the linebacker room he and Kobe [King] have been right around 250 above or below for a while,” he said. “I think his body was naturally telling him he could he could make the move if he needed to and wanted to and there’s an opportunity there.”

Overall, Franklin feels this benefits everyone involved.

“Having depth and talent and the type of length that we wanted the defensive end position,” Franklin said. “I think this is going to be a kind of a win-win for everybody.”

Franklin isn’t the only one excited about Carter

“I think you can expect to see a lot of explosiveness,” former Penn State LB Curtis Jacobs said at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis earlier this month. “A lot of quarterbacks being sacked. That’s just something… he’s worked. I feel like he’s earned that right to be able to make that position change. I think he’s going to be dominant. I think he’s the type of guy, when he gets put in a position, whether he’s good at it or not, he’s going to keep working until he is. I think that’s definitely something that he’s going to dominate in.”

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