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Penn State's Abdul Carter might not be finished with playing linebacker [opinion]

Apr. 14—It's difficult to discern much from Penn State's Blue-White Game in any year, but one thing was perfectly clear Saturday at Beaver Stadium:

Abdul Carter is adjusting quite nicely to defensive end after two outstanding seasons at linebacker.

Carter's burst from a three-point stance was obvious to the small crowd braving the blustery weather. He disrupted many plays by the Blue team's offense.

"I love challenges," he said in his first spring interview. "I love trying new things. That's something that I'm doing right now. It's a big change. It's going good for me now."

The 6-3, 250-pound Carter was one of the Nittany Lions' best defensive players the last two seasons. He was an All-Big Ten first-team pick last year by the coaches and was a consensus Freshman All-American in 2022.

So then why would he request a move to defensive end, a position he played only briefly as a high school freshman at La Salle in Philadelphia?

"It's just a chance for me to do what I do best," Carter said, "which is get after the quarterback, play fast and not have to think. Just do what I do best and get paid."

He was probably referring to his future in the NFL, where edge rushers are in demand and have better contracts than linebackers.

But he may not be finished with the linebacker position.

Four years ago, then-Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry designed a scheme that would have used linebacker Micah Parsons at multiple positions, including end, to take advantage of his athleticism before Parsons opted out of the season because of the pandemic.

In the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys list Parsons as a linebacker, but he also plays end.

Carter hinted Saturday that he might split time between the two positions with new defensive coordinator Tom Allen.

"We'll see how the season goes," he said. "We have specific game plans. Wherever I'm needed, I'll play... I'm definitely versatile. I feel like I can play anywhere that my coaches need me to play and get the job done."

At defensive end, Carter is expected to share time with veterans Dani Dennis-Sutton, Amin Vanover, Zuriah Fisher and Smith Vilbert and promising sophomore Jameial Lyons. At outside linebacker, he was on the field for most of the snaps last season.

With his extraordinary ability, it would be silly for him to be on the field less than he was last season. But if he plays both positions, his snaps might be close to where they were in 2023.

"Abdul's been great," said sophomore linebacker Tony Rojas, who's poised to be a starter in the fall. "I see him make crazy spin moves. He still teaches me and helps me with the little things.

"Him moving there is great for us. Not just for us, but also for him. I feel like he'll flourish a lot this season."

Carter did line up in a three-point stance at times when Penn State employed its 3-2-6 pass defense under former coordinator Manny Diaz. His explosiveness at the snap of the football Saturday was something to behold.

"I just want to play fast and physical," he said.

Carter led the Lions in sacks as a freshman and tied for second on the team last season. He might lead the Big Ten in the fall.

"Wherever you put Abdul Carter on the field, he's going to make plays," linebacker Dom DeLuca said. "He's going to be disruptive and he's going to get to the quarterback. He's a freak athlete."