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Penn State Football: Expect Reinforcements At Linebacker, Not New Starters

by on October 19, 2016 12:30 PM

Running at full speed on Wednesday evening Penn State middle linebacker Jason Cabinda could be seen -finally- practicing again.

The million dollar smile Nittany Lion has missed the majority of the season with a hand injury, Cabinda's ailment just one of a growing list of injuries to hit the linebacker position. Nyeem Wartman-White out for the season, Brandon Bell missing as much time as Cabinda with a lower body injury. All told it has left Penn State without its starting linebacker corps for what essentially amounts to the entire season.

So having them back, especially against No. 2 Ohio State, is a welcome sight for the defense.

"I thought yesterday, Jason practiced at a higher level than we expected, Brandon as well," Coach James Franklin said after practice. "But both of them as practice went on, you could tell they wore down. They're not used to going that type of level or intensity. As much as you run them and do other things, it's just not the same. There's still some time but I don't see them playing 65-70 plays in the game."

Instead it will likely be the motley crue of Jake Cooper (also back from injury) Brandon Smith, Manny Bowen and Cam Brown taking the majority of snaps this weekend on the field. It stands to reason that Cabinda and Bell will find themselves playing meaningful snaps this weekend, but until they're even back to 90% ready, the guys who have been playing for weeks in their absence might be the better option come Saturday. 

"For us to expect them to start and play 60 plays in the game, they won't," Franklin said. "But there's no doubt that the fact that they're back provides depth and leadership that we've been lacking in some areas."

And as one might expect, the two linebackers that were supposed to be key to Penn State's success on defense this year, have approached their injuries in a way that is reflective of their personalities.

"Bell is pretty chill in general, Cabinda's the opposite," Franklin said. "Cabinda's been getting in fistfights with the doctors and trainers for three weeks now to get back on the field, which I like. He's got that mentality. Bell's more of a "steady Eddy," which is also good. He's got a calming effect on our guys, a playmaker on Saturdays."

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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