Abdul Carter calls himself an elite player, the best player on the Penn State football team, and someone who can bring down any challenger.
Then it’s all about chess.
“Soccer is like chess,” said his father, Christopher Carter, who taught Abdul how to play both. “He has to be more than just athletic, he has to be able to think. Athletic alone doesn’t make football. He has to be athletic and smart. That’s why he had to learn to play chess to be a better footballer.”
Carter wants to rule the football field the way he rules the chessboard. Last season, he was named a Freshman All-American for the Nittany Lions after he played brilliantly with 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He was a major reason why Penn State had one of the best defenses in the nation.
Of course now he has higher aspirations for himself and his teammates.
“As a team, we obviously want to win the U.S. Championship,” Carter said. “It starts with (September 2nd, the season opener) against West Virginia. Individually, I want to be unanimously first-team All-American and win the Butkas Trophy (the best linebacker in the nation).”
The 6-3, 249-pound Carter says so with confidence rather than arrogance. He’s already been compared to some of Penn State’s greatest linebackers, including Butkas champion Lavar Arrington and Paul Pozulschny.
He wears number 11 because the number 22 he wore at La Salle College High School in Philadelphia was retired at Penn State in honor of 1973 Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti. But he is a proud member of Sticks City, the unofficial club that once wore number 11 for the Lions, with standout linebackers in Arrington, Navolo Bowman and Myka Parsons.
“I asked for number 11 because that’s the name of the street where I was born and raised,” Carter said. “I didn’t really know much about Micah, LaVar and Navolo until we actually got to Penn State. I’ve met Mr. LaVar a few times. We’re really close.”
“But it’s just a number. I’m still going about my business as I always have.”
Carter rose to prominence at La Salle, earning three All-Catholic League selections and a four-star recruitment rating. However, the 2022 Pennsylvania State University ranking by On3 ranks 8th or lower, and 247 sports magazine ranks it as low as 13th.
He decided not to enroll until after high school last year, which may have slowed his development. It is now safe to say that this was not the case.
“Every freshman says they want to play, but not all of them really understand what it takes to do that,” said Lions coach James Franklin. “He had a very mature approach from the moment he stepped onto campus. Physically, he was already ready for college.
“He was able to understand the system very quickly. He has the ability to find the ball. You can teach that, but some people learn it naturally. Some players have to work hard, but he has the ability to find the ball.”
Carter’s college career didn’t get off to a great start. He was called for targeting on his first play in the season opener against Purdue and was sent off.
“I used it as a learning opportunity,” he said. “I was still in the idea that I could run and tackle whatever I wanted. From that point on I moved on and got better.”
Two weeks later at Auburn, he broke with six solo tackles and a force fumble recovered by Penn State in a 41-12 win. He displayed tremendous speed and was immediately compared to Parsons. However, he struggled in the weeks that followed and was still unable to make it into the starting line-up.
“He’s still learning his way,” said defensive coordinator and linebacking coach Manny Diaz. “After the Auburn game, when he made some splash plays, I think you’ll realize the next week the little things weren’t there.
“If you’re really talented, and you keep your game simple, and you play simple, then that talent comes into play. You don’t have to guess or invent anything. Your talent just carries on. I think that was part of his understanding.”
After Michigan devastated Pennsylvania State with 418 rushing yards in a 41-17 crushing loss, Carter made his first start against Minnesota and made a career-high eight tackles in a 45-17 rampage. He remained in the lineup for the rest of the season.
“When he got promoted to the first team, it was a big step,” Diaz said. “The ability to work hard there and prepare like a starter.
And it happened. With Carter in the line-up, the Lions held six of their final seven opponents under 21 points and under 391 total yards. At the end of the regular season, he was named to the All-Big Ten second team by the media and third team by the coaches.
As the Rose Bowl against Utah drew nearer, it became clear that Utah knew what damage Carter could do.
“I know number 11[Carter]is the best player in the country,” Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said at the time. “He wreaks havoc on everything he does. A player jumping off the screen at me would be one of them. He’s out.”
Carter only got one tackle, presumably because Yutes tried to avoid him. But that tackle that stopped running back Mika Bernard to no gain in the second quarter sent a message after Bernard said he didn’t like Carter getting hit.
He also stepped up against an errant pass by Utah tight end Thomas Yasmine. He showed his speed several times early in the season, including sacking Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and running across the field to rush Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa.
“Abdul’s versatility is definitely a strength for our defense,” Diaz said. “He could play in the box and he could play the run well. He can cover. You can use him as part of your stunt package on third down. He has a lot of ways to influence a win.”
Carter’s discipline and fearlessness are what make him special, according to his father, who played football at Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic High School and Bloomsburg College. When Abdul was in elementary school, his father thought he could become president or a senator.
“Without my father, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Carter said. “He has coached me since I was eight years old. I trusted his plans and training regimes. He was like my trainer off the field. When I wasn’t on the team, I would run hills or lift weights with him.”
Carter played basketball in high school, but football is his passion. His father gave him the nickname “The Incredibles”. Carter, his father, and Diaz all used the same words when describing what they could accomplish this season.
“Don’t take this as arrogance, but he will dominate this year,” said Christopher Carter.
Abdul Carter says he needs to improve his preparation and learn Penn State’s opponents better to play faster and become “more dominant.”
“He has the chance to become a dominant footballer,” Diaz said. “Abdul is fully committed to the game with his talent. He could make the same kind of plays that[safety and third-round draft pick]Zair Brown did a year ago to help win football games.
https://www.mcall.com/2023/07/22/penn-state-football-abdul-carter-wants-to-pace-another-dominant-defense/ Abdul Carter eyeing another dominant defensive pace – The Morning Call