Perhaps the biggest non-Hackenberg loss of the offseason, the departure of Troy Reeder to Delaware leaves an opening in the linebacker corps where a young promising talent once stood. Hard hitting and a downhill tackler, Reeder was everything you want in a linebacker. Reeder is the only name lost on the roster from last season, but his potential and his play will be a missed asset this season and beyond.
Who's Still Here:
However the good news is who still remains. Brandon Bell, Nyeem Wartman-White, and Jason Cabinda will all likely reprise their starting roles, especially Wartman-White who is limited this spring and missed what essentially amounted to the entire season after getting injured in Game 1 against Temple. Cabinda will almost certainly work at the MLB position while Bell and Wartman-White take the outside spots to give Penn State a fairly experienced, physical and stout grouping. Also don't forget longtime special teams fixture Von Walker.
If there was any advantage of Wartman-White's injury last season it did force now sophomores Manny Bowen and Jake Cooper into action throughout the season. While they'll still likely operate as depth rotation players, their comfort level on the field is without a doubt much greater than your average sophomores. Bowen in particular was particularly solid.
What To Watch:
This group should pan out like it looks on paper, but it'll be interesting to see how fast Wartman-White can get his legs back underneath him. He isn't practicing this spring and he hasn't played since last year. Even if he is going to be starting for the majority of the season, it doesn't seem unlikely that a strong summer from Cooper or Bowen could help push them into the starting role as Wartman-White gets everything going at a high level again. This position isn't full of much mystery, but it's going to be an all hands on deck kind of season with not tons of depth.
The Short Version:
If it can stay healthy Penn State's linebacker corps can be as good as it has ever been. Cabinda is bigger and stronger and Bell is as good as he has always been. Wartman-White back in the fold and younger talent behind him means all the pieces are in place for a solid group, it's just a matter of staying healthy.