Penn State has been absolutely decimated at linebacker due to injury after injury.
Veteran backers such as Brandon Bell, Jason Cabinda, and Nyeem Hartman-White have all missed a majority of the season thus far, and Wartman-White will miss the remainder of the season due to another knee injury. All these injuries have forced coach Franklin to play some of the younger guys, such as Manny Bowen, Brandon Smith, Cam Brown, and Jake Cooper who have become familiar with Nittany Lion fans wether we like it or not.
Jake Cooper is one player you should get to know. Cooper is a 6-foot-1, 230 pound linebacker responsible for leading an injury depleted defense. Though Cooper is just a sophomore, he has already seen quite a lot of action. In his true freshman season, Cooper played in six games and totaled fourteen tackles and one sack. Expect those numbers to sky rocket this season with Cooper filling in the middle for the time being. Already through four games this season, the Doylestown native has piled up 13 tackles in three games.
Cooper is one of the guys Franklin has faith in to fill the void left by the several other linebackers who’ve been suffering from injury. He seemed upbeat when talking about his young linebacker, but he was also quick to point out areas where Cooper needs to improve. Franklin said Cooper “needs to be more vocal and take control, thats kind of a natural thing for young players.” Franklin also pointed out that Cooper must be able to call out the defense and shifts.
With last week’s debacle in Michigan, Big Ten play is officially under way, and it’s time for Cooper and company to make the most of a season that has been up and down so far. 2-2 Penn State takes on 3-0 Minnesota this weekend — and for Cooper, it will be another opportunity to showcase his ability to help get the Nittany Lions back on track.
Cooper will most likely be the man in the middle come Saturday. One area he needs to improve on is vocal leadership.
“A big part of his job is making the calls, and making the adjustments and getting everybody on the same page,” Franklin said.
Cooper needs to become more vocal on the field to help his teammates, and with being thrown into the fire, he’s been presented with the opportunity to make a name for himself and become the next member of LinebackerU.