What Nyeem Wartman-White’s Injury Means To Penn State
Adding to Penn State’s shocking loss against Temple is the loss of one of its key defensive players in Nyeem Wartman-White. Not only did the Nittany Lions lose an essential defensive playr, they also lose a leader and a player tabbed as the next great Penn State linebacker.
Penn State is renowned as “Linebacker U,” so it’s only fitting that its unquestioned leader plays that position — with a former list of players including the likes of LaVar Arrington, Dan Connor, Paul Posluszny, Michael Mauti, and Mike Hull. Hull, after a memorable senior year, set off for the NFL, and Penn State needed to find the its new anchor in the middle.
Entering the 2015 season, Nyeem Wartman-White was deemed the player expected to step up and be the centerpiece of Bob Shoop’s top-tier defense. Wartman-White finished second on the team with 75 tackles last season, and showed his defensive prowess with a solid all-around game. He was one of the main bright spots to look forward to in this season and in the Temple game. When he fell to the grass at the end of the first quarter, his shot at a big season, along with his team’s high level of play, fell with him.
The Nittany Lions looked like a different team when Wartman-White was healthy. The same team that took a 10-0 lead over the Owls and didn’t seem like it would let up any time soon. Once the junior linebacker left the game with an injury, the Nittany Lions looked lost and eventually allowed 27 unanswered points to lose to Temple for the first time since 1941.
On the surface, we may see the injury as such: Penn State losing a talented player for the season due to suspected damage to his knee. What makes it more detrimental is that it happened in the first week of the season. So now the Nittany Lions need to find a replacement not just for the prowess that Wartman-White emanated at the linebacker position, but also his heart and drive.
The team now must turn to Brandon Bell at the linebacker position, who has the ability to fill in for Wartman-White. The junior linebacker is now looked at to lead this Penn State defense as the main contributor in the coveted position. Bell will be called on to fill the void in terms of production, but a collection of senior players is ready to claim the leadership of this team. Obviously, Wartman-White was not the only influence in terms of leadership, but he played a significant role in inspiring the players that suited up in the black shoes and basic blues.
The injury to Wartman-White also jump-starts the attention that will be given to sophomore linebacker Jason Cabinda. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound linebacker was one of our breakout candidates for this season, and this recent setback for the Nittany Lions means there is more playing time available for the true sophomore.
In an interview with 247 Sports, Cabinda stated that he’s ready to move to the mike linebacker position if called upon. Cabinda also stated that he watched film with Wartman-White “for hours” on the team’s day off, and believes he is suited for the play style.
“The leadership aspect of the position, I think, is crucial to that position,” Cabinda said. “A hard-hitting style. I play downhill. Anticipation is one of the traits that’s really critical to that position.”
The spotlight is on Bell and Cabinda, though there are other players to keep an eye on who weren’t even expected to suit up this season. True freshman linebackers Jake Cooper and Manny Bowen, who originally were supposed to redshirt this season, saw the field against Temple on Saturday and could end up seeing an increased role with the recent injury to Wartman-White.
Wartman-White’s injury subtracts one of the defense’s biggest guarantees, but opens the door for some young guns to step in and prove their worth. No matter the serious impact the loss will have on the team, there are still positives that can be drawn.