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Mike Hull could fit at MLB for Buccaneers

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The kid who seemingly was born to play at Penn State almost escaped to the University of Pittsburgh.

It was 2012 and Penn State didn't look like Penn State anymore. Linebacker Mike Hull visited Pittsburgh and was ready to transfer there and put an end to his Penn State legacy. His father, Tom, played linebacker there in the 1970s and Hull had grown up going to games in Happy Valley.

But things weren't so happy in those days. Legendary coach Joe Paterno was fired and then died soon after. The program was getting hit by NCAA sanctions after the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Players were allowed to transfer to other schools without having to sit out a year.

"It was really tough," Hull said. "When everything came down, I was almost in tears. It was a crazy time. I didn't know if I was going to stay or go. On the day before camp, I went to coach [Bill] O'Brien and told him I was still on the fence about Pitt. He told me to sleep on it. I was in camp the next day and I never looked back. Thankfully, I decided to stay."

Hull's career took off after that. He spent 2012 as the fourth linebacker and played extensively on special teams. In 2013, he started at outside linebacker. In 2014, he made the switch to middle linebacker.

Now, Hull is considered one of the top middle linebacker prospects in the draft.

"I like the inside better just because I feel like I can use my instincts a little bit more," Hull said last week at IMG Academy as he was preparing for this week's NFL scouting combine. "I have a good nose for the ball and can go sideline to sideline."

It's not that much of a stretch to envision Hull being selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the draft's second or third round. Incumbent starter Mason Foster is scheduled to be a free agent and indications are the Bucs will let him walk.

The Bucs spent some time talking to Hull at the Senior Bowl and he sees Tampa Bay as a good fit.

"It would be pretty cool to play the Tampa 2 scheme," Hull said. "I like the Tampa 2 drop and I think I can cover pretty well."

Still, Hull is carrying a bit of a chip on his shoulder because some draft experts have questioned him.

"Not big enough, not fast enough, not strong enough," Hull said. "But, hey, we'll see. I think people will be surprised with how athletic I am compared to what they've been saying. We'll see what happens at the combine."