With last night’s news that rising redshirt junior linebacker Ben Kline will miss significant time with a torn achilles tendon, it becomes even more important for other players to step up in the rotation.
With rising redshirt senior Mike Hull firmly cemented as the starter in the middle, Kline was the favorite for a starting outside linebacker spot this fall after finishing last season with 18 tackles and a pair of sacks, despite having his season cut short in November due to shoulder surgery.
It seems very unlikely Kline will be able to play in 2014, as torn Achilles tendons take about six months to heal, and a similar injury kept Brad Bars sidelined for all of last season after he suffered it in July 2013. Here is a brief look at some of the players who will need to step up production this season as an already thin linebacking corps gets even thinner.
(photo via Bobby Chen/OS)
Redshirt sophomore Nyeem Wartman:
Last season, Nyeem Wartman began to resemble the player who came in with so much hype as a freshman back in 2012. He didn’t let fans down in his first full season on the gridiron, becoming a factor against the run and finishing up with 28 tackles and a sack.
However, his presence on the outside will be counted on even more with Kline unavailable. Although he showed up in some big games, Wartman will need to be more consistent this fall — he recorded a total of just four tackles in Penn State’s last three games.
(photo via puffclinty/Flickr)
Sophomore Brandon Bell:
Bell is riding a wave of momentum into this season, as he caught fire with 12 tackles in the Lions’ last two games. That type of consistency would be very important to the stability of the Nittany Lions’ linebacking corps. Bell is going to have to produce at a high level to make up for the lack of depth.
Luckily, the 226-pound redshirt sophomore has the ability and tenacity to be a tackling machine, and seems to be progressing at just the right time. Look for him to make an impact early.
(photo via GoPSUSports)
Junior Matthew Baney:
Matthew Baney is a State College lifer, St. Francis (Pa.) transfer, and now crucial for the depth of the Nittany Lions’ linebacking corps. The walk-on has had a great spring, highlighted by his 28-yard interception that was returned for a touchdown in the spring game. Baney also has been taking reps with the starters for a portion of spring practices while Nyeem Wartman nursed a minor injury, according to PennLive.
He has some experience, and seems ready for the challenge. Baney might be a few spots down the depth chart, but with Kline’s injury, he will definitely be counted in certain situations this season.
(photo via GoPSUSports)
Redshirt sophomore Gary Wooten:
Despite rarely seeing the field last season, Gary Wooten will be an important role player on the outside. He is in the mix for a starting job alongside Brandon Bell and Nyeem Wartman, but no matter who starts, Wooten will be counted on to produce.
The 6-foot-3, 237-pound redshirt sophomore has also been a player catching the eye of many around the program throughout the offseason. He becomes one of the main role players in the linebacking rotation this fall, and should turn some heads with his on field performance.