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Miles Dieffenbach Might Return Saturday Against Maryland

Penn State’s offensive line may be finally getting some of the help it so desperately needs.

Fifth-year senior guard Miles Dieffenbach will possibly play Saturday against Maryland, James Franklin suggested at his press conference on Tuesday.

Franklin reaffirmed that Dieffenbach has been practicing to some extent for the past few weeks, and “that will allow us to play him in the game a little bit.” But Franklin stressed that his play is contingent on how his practice goes this week.

Dieffenbach, a team captain, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during spring practice. It was was initially believed that he would miss the entire 2014 season, but he was spotted practicing two weeks ago during an open practice, and took on more reps during last week’s practice. Franklin has said multiple times that if Dieffenbach returns, he’d be “eased into it” and will most likely not start right away.

Dieffenbach said his leg is getting “better every day,” but eluded to the mental challenge that not playing carries.

Franklin echoed that statement. “There’s a difference between your approach to treatment and your approach to the weight room, and actually being out on the field again with bodies flying around your legs,” Franklin after practice last Wednesday. “There’s a mental aspect out there as well. He hasn’t had the mental memory.”

“The hardest thing is not being out there,” Dieffenbach said. “It’s hard to lead by example when you’re not on the field.”

Dieffenbach’s eventual return will be a welcome one — the Nittany Lions rank last in rushing yards in the entire country after collecting just 16 yards on the ground against Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes racked up five sacks and 11 tackles for losses on Saturday.

Still, Franklin stressed that his return is no guarantee, and the coaching staff will not risk putting the 6-foot-3 senior into play prematurely. “We are never, ever going to put winning a game in front of what’s in the best for our [student-athletes],” Franklin said.

“I’m dying to get out there knowing these are the last couple of games putting on a Penn State jersey,” Dieffenbach said, but he too acknowledged that he wouldn’t threaten further injury, in part because he said he believes he can still play in the NFL.

Dieffenbach told the media that he takes “game reps” with defensive lineman Anthony Zettel during practice. Dieffenbach said he asks Zettel to rush after him at full speed, as if during the game. He said it has helped smooth his transition back to full speed football.

The Lions also lost left tackle Donovan Smith during the Whiteout game on Penn State’s second touchdown, a 24-yard end-zone lob to Saeed Blacknall. Angelo Mangiro switched to right tackle, Andrew Nelson — who practices each week at both tackle positions — moved to the left tackle, and Wendy Laurent slid in as the center. With that group, Penn State mounted a 19-play, 77-yard drive that tied the game with a Sam Ficken field goal.

Franklin said that he is “anticipating” that Donovan Smith will return for Maryland.

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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