From Bad To Worse: Starting Linebacker Wartman-White Out For Season With Injury
Nobody expected good news when James Franklin walked into the Lincoln Financial Field press room. After an embarrassing 27-10 loss to a school that hadn’t beaten Penn State since before the U.S. involvement in World War II, nobody expected any revelations. It was a bad game, and James Franklin was going to say that and not much more. But subtly, in the middle of his opening remarks, Franklin slipped in eight crippling words, spoken as if he thought it was old news. “And we lost Nyeem Wartman for the season.” With those eight words, one of the worst games in recent memory got even worse.
Coming into the season, Wartman-White was expected to be the one to step up, and try to fill the massive shoes of Mike Hull. And based on his performance in the 2014 season, it seemed like he would have a chance to do just that. He was even able to help get the defense clicking early in the game, but after going down early in the second quarter, that all changed. On the ensuing Temple possession, the Owls drove 93 yards and scored a touchdown, and, as you probably already know, it only got worse from there.
In addition to losing Wartman-White, Brandon Bell, another junior linebacker, left the game injured. Franklin, however, said that Bell should be ready by next Saturday for Buffalo.
Despite the loss, senior defensive end Carl Nassib was still optimistic about the defense going forward.
“[Wartman-White and Brandon Bell] are the captains of our ship. It hurts to lose Nyeem,” Nassib said,”But we play with a ‘next man up’ mentality, I’m sure we’ll have some younger guys rise to the occasion, and we’ll be ready for Buffalo.”
Nassib, like Wartman-White, was primed to have a big season, and was touted by many as a potential breakout player for 2015. He didn’t disappoint, getting a career-high 10 tackles, and a sack to go with 2.5 tackles for a loss. Sophomore Jason Cabinda also turned in a strong showing in Wartman-White’s absence, with seven tackles. In fact, the defense in general had many good moments, creating 15 tackles for losses, and showing some strength early. But after a while, the lack of rest for the Nittany Lions, due to the offense’s inability to hold on to the ball, seemed to take a toll.
While next weekend’s game against Buffalo should prove to be less of a challenge for a defense that was expected to one of the nation’s best, the unit and its coordinator, Bob Shoop, have a lot to figure out. While the team is deeper than it has been in previous years, much of that depth comes in the form of freshmen and sophomores who were not expected to have to come in and replace a cornerstone of the defense. It wasn’t in anybody’s plans for freshmen and sophomores to be the core of a linebacking unit at a school known as “Linebacker U,” but if the Nittany Lions want to have any success this year, they’ll have to hope Carl Nassib is right–someone will step up.
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