UNIVERSITY PARK - Tom Bradley has some friendly advice for Penn State football fans: Keep a firm grip on your 2010 rosters.
At least for the first couple games.
By then, Bradley expects his Nittany Lions defense, particularly the linebacking corps, to have some type of name recognition.
One of the players who hopes to be in that mix is Mike Yancich, a third-year sophomore from Trinity High School. He is among the contenders to replace last year's starting All-Big Ten linebacking trio of Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman and Josh Hull, who have departed to the NFL.
"Camp has started out great," Yancich said Thursday afternoon while standing near the 50-yard line at Beaver Stadium during Penn State's preseason media day.
"I've developed a lot from last year to this year," he said. "Every little aspect of the game is coming together."
And that says a lot, considering Yancich brought to Penn State quite an impressive scholastic résumé. As a standout linebacker and running back for the Hillers, Yancich was named the Observer-Reporter's 2007 Player of the Year and was selected Class AAA first-team all-state by the Associated Press. He also received the 2007 Big 7 Conference Offensive Most Valuable Player award and was named to the Offense-Defense All-American team.
Unfortunately, he has yet to taste that kind of success at Penn State, where he redshirted as a freshman and saw limited action in 10 games last year on defense and special teams.
But he's not complaining.
"A lot of people are not very happy about redshirting," Yancich said. "When I sat down and thought about it, it was the best thing for me. It almost would have been premature if I would have been thrown out there right away."
Plus, the redshirt gave him some extra time to adjust to the speed of the college game, and college life in general.
"I think you see a lot of talent and speed once you get to the collegiate level," said Yancich, who this year is sharing a four-bedroom apartment with three of his teammates: long snapper Michael Fuhrman from North Allegheny, offensive tackle Mike Farrell from Shady Side and defensive end Pete Massaro from Marple Newtown.
"Once you get to college," Yancich said, "the fullbacks are fast, the linebackers are fast and the wide receivers are twice as fast."
It didn't hurt, either, that Lee, the heart of the Lions' linebacking unit, was sidelined in 2008 with a right knee injury. It gave Yancich twice the opportunity to work closely with inspirational and talented linebacker from Upper St. Clair.
"He was awesome," Yancich said. "As much as we teased him when he tore his ACL, he almost acted like a coach. He was such a great player. He was such a great teacher."
And, according to Bradley, Yancich apparently was a good student. All of the jobs at linebacker are "up for grabs," and Yancich is one of the guys fighting for a starting role, even though he is listed behind senior Chris Colasanti on the depth chart at inside linebacker.
"He has great intensity. He's a high-energy guy who is obviously very fast," Bradley said. "We've kind of moved him all over the place, which gives us some versatility. We're asking him to play some strong safety. We want to see what he can do in the first couple practices."
So far, Yancich is enjoying the ride.
"It's pretty surreal," Yancich said. "I never thought I'd be on the field at Penn State."