IN FOCUS: Mike Yancich

With the linebacker unit "brimming with talent," as one observer put it, one of the young players who has continually made impressions is Mike Yancich. Get an exclusive assessment of his progress this off-season right here.

THE PLAYER

Mike Yancich, LB (6-foot-2, 230 pounds)

As one observer put it earlier this off-season, "Yancich is cut from the same cloth as Dan Connor and Paul Posluszny — tough as nails and all business."

In a unit that has a plethora of exeprienced talent like Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman and Bani Gbadyu, and a myriad of impressive young players like Michael Mauti, Nate Stupar and Michael Zordich, to name a few, Mike Yancich has been "heads down in trying to make an impression since he arrived on campus."

He's done that well so far, receiving consist praise from a wide array of practice observers who refer to him as "a machine," "a stud" and "the real deal."

At about 230 pounds, Yancich has added 10 pounds or so through the winter period. "He's really pounded on the conditioning this winter," as one observer put it. He's also focused on his speed and technique this off-season.

He has seen reps at both strong-side and weak-side linebacker, although many feel that he has the skills to play weak-side effectively. With so much talent though and a series of rotations this spring, it's not clear as to where he'll end up, but it is clear that he is turning heads.

THE ASSESSMENT

Approach: "Mike's the kind of guy who is laid back and loose in the locker room or meetings, but can flip the switch once he puts his gear on. He can play nuts. The 'backers love to use the term 'reckless' to describe their play - I think Mike fits that mold. He punishes himself to get better, but has a controlled style," according to one observer. As other observers have said, Yancich is "intense," and "very hard on himself to improve, almost too hard sometimes."

Mobility: Yancich has good agility and "gets up on his toes." He also has "off-the-line quickness," which some attribute more to his ability to read-react in plays rather than his physical speed. However, Yancich is focused on "preserving and improving his speed with the additional weight." Observers indicate he is pushing hard to increase his size and speed, which can be a challenge for many players, but "his frame carries the weight well."

Attitude: Described as "very coachable," Yancich is "continually on the coaches and veterans asking them to assess his play and tell him how he improves." As one observer explained, "He has a drive to get better - not just through reps, but through feedback. He is the type of player most coaches love to coach."

Improvement: Focused on improving his size and maintaining his speed this off-season, Yancich is also working on refining his techinique on pursuits, take-downs and wrap-ups. "He's got strong overall technique, but is working on the little things, like pull-aparts on a tackle to try to strip the ball." As another observer shared, "I don't think anyone is doubting his abilities - the biggest issue for Mike is there is so much frickin' talent in this unit. Seriously, there's enough talent here to field starting guys for two to three Big Ten teams."

Impact: With the backlog of talent Penn State has at linebacker Yancich is making an impression with a strong work ethic and improvements to his physique and technique. "I'd say Mauti and Stupar have an edge based on experience, but I'd put Yancich in the pack with them and think he'll contribute this year. Vandy may have to talk to LJ on using a similar rotation the [defensive] line uses to get all these guys in."

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