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Penn State Football: Timetable For Bell And Cabinda Return Still Unclear

by on September 28, 2016 6:00 AM

Penn State coach James Franklin doesn't talk about injuries, usually.

But Penn State's linebacker situation is hardly of the usual variety. All three starters missing multiple games, Nyeem Wartman-White a second straight year with a season ending injury, Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda leg and hand injuries respectively.

Beyond that Brandon Smith was ejected for a controversial targeting call against Michigan this past weekend and Jan Johnson, who came in to replace Smith, left the game with his own season ending injury.

So Franklin's hand was a bit forced on Tuesday as he spoke with the media, and asked frequently about all those injured players. The result was a lot of uncertainty, which in short means it seems unlikely either Bell or Cabinda will be back this weekend in Penn State's meeting with Minnesota.

"We knew when they first got injured that it would not be a week to week deal, and we'll just kind of see how that goes." Franklin said on Tuesday. "Again, hopefully sooner rather than later. The bye week is coming up here, so I think that's going to help, as well. But we'll see."

"Again, I don't have a whole lot of control over that. It's the doctors and it's how their bodies heal and what all the different test results show. You know, again, I'll be open and transparent when they're season-ending injuries with you guys, and besides that, significant is about as far as I'll go, or possibility is about as detailed as I'll get."

With Bell and Cabinda out of the mix Penn State will look to Cam Brown, Brandon Smith and Jake Cooper in the starting roles. From there Manny Bowen, Koa Farmer and Von Walker on the two-deep roster.

The challenge of course is putting all six in a position where they can succeed, and Penn State won't suffer as a result. A difficult balance but a mandatory one to even have a chance with such a crippled unit.

"So what we have to do is we have to make sure that we put these guys in position to play well," Franklin added. "Which means we're probably going to be a little bit more vanilla on defense, allow those guys to go out and play with confidence, allow them to build some experience and some confidence in how they play and playing well and give us a chance to be successful, and now what's going to happen is now you get Jason Cabinda back and you get Brandon Bell back, and now you have depth and you have experience and you've got guys that you feel like you can put on the play and be successful with."

"I think if we can put these guys in position to be successful over the next couple weeks, then we'll be getting some guys back hopefully sooner rather than later, and now we won't be in the situation that we are right now, if that makes sense."

The result is a small silver lining, Penn State expects Bell and Cabinda back into the equation at some point, and when they do, the Nittany Lions will have a handful of linebackers with more experience than they would have ever gotten had those players been healthy.

But until everyone knows how many games Penn State can win in the meantime, how much a positive it is remains to be seen.

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