Position Spotlight: Linebackers
Penn State football will face their biggest challenge of the season this Saturday and for the second week in a row, they’ll have a familiar face at middle linebacker.
Jason Cabinda Jr., the sophomore, appears to be getting the starting nod again over redshirt junior Gary Wooten Jr., nearly two weeks after Penn State lost one of their defensive leaders Nyeem Wartman-White.
“I think Jason [Cabinda] is the man,” said head coach James Franklin after the sophomore recorded six total tackles against Buffalo. “Jason is playing really well. He's very mature. He's leading very well. I think Jason has a chance to be really good.”
But it won’t be a single effort that makes up for the loss of Wartman-White. Last Saturday, redshirt freshman linebacker Troy Reeder recorded five solo tackles and seven total, helping to hold Buffalo to just 69 yards rushing.
“The last two weeks [Reeder] really come on strong and doing some really, really nice things,” said Franklin. “I'm real pleased with him. I think that's two young guys, a true sophomore and a redshirt freshman linebacker that are able to provide depth and experience for years to come in play-making ability.”
The Nittany Lions will also be adding veteran Brandon Bell back into the mix. The junior recorded a career high 47 tackles in his sophomore season and will play a tremendous role in keeping “Linebacker U” intact.
Penn State should also have sophomore cornerback Grant Haley back in the secondary against Rutgers this Saturday. Haley will be making his first appearance of the season after serving as the team’s primary kick returner in his freshman season. Haley’s first start came against Boston College in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl victory over Boston College.
There’s no doubt this will be a group effort for the young linebacking core and for the Nittany Lion defense as a whole, but this season can be key to the growth of young linebackers.
Penn State hosts Rutgers this Saturday at home with kickoff set for 8 P.M. Last year Penn State defeated the Scarlet Knights 13-10 in their first Big 10 matchup. The Lions are 23-2 all time against Rutgers.
Brandon Pelter is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism and finance. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org