August 12, 2017
Checking in at each position for a closer look at who’s back and who’s new to the Nittany Lion roster
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Training camp continues to roll into the weekend for the Nittany Lions with practice No. 10 kicking off later this afternoon.
Ahead of the 2017 season, continue checking in at each position for a closer look at who’s back and who’s new to the Nittany Lion roster.
– Brandon Smith (RS Sr./Sr.)
– Joe DuMond (So./So.)
– Manny Bowen (Jr./Jr.)
– Jason Vranic (Sr./Sr.)
– Jason Cabinda (Sr./Sr.)
– Koa Farmer (Sr./Jr.)
– Jarvis Miller (Jr./So.)
– Frank Di Leo (Jr./So.)
– Jan Johnson (Jr./So.)
– Cam Brown (So./So.)
– Jake Cooper (Jr./Jr.)
– Ellis Brooks, (Fr./Fr., 6-1/220, Mechanicsville, Va./Benedictine College Prep), Brelin Faison-Walden (Fr./Fr., 6-1/212, Greensboro, N.C./Grimsley), Brailyn Franklin (Fr./Fr., 6-2/204, Arlington, Texas/Battlefield-Va.).
What To Watch For:
An uncanny amount of injuries to the unit last year proved to be perhaps a blessing, with the results of a bit of a forced next-man-up mentally yielding some invaluable experience. Of the 11 returning linebackers, all but two played in at least one game during the 2016 season.
Among the most experienced in the group, it’s the final season for Cabinda, who leads both the linebackers and the team this year, selected as one of three team captains. In his last year, Cabinda hopes to leave behind a legacy of leadership and for defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry, Cabinda’s poised to leave behind a lasting mark on the program.
Coming off a year that included third team All-Big Ten honors, Cabinda logged eight or more tackles in eight of the nine games he played, including a team-high 11 stops in the Rose Bowl Game, with seven solo. This offseason though, Cabinda keyed in on shaping his body, focusing on speed and lateral movement, finishing winter conditioning leading the linebackers with a 34″ vertical jump, 4.15 in the pro agility a 520 squat and 370 in the power clean.
Perhaps no better example of the next-man-up mentality last year came from Brandon Smith, who stepped into the middle linebacker spot for two starts, playing in all 14 games. Smith highlighted the year with a career-high 14 tackles in the win against Maryland, including his first career interception in the first quarter.
With the departure of Brandon Bell to the NFL, Penn State has experience in both Jake Cooper and Cam Brown, who made two starts a piece at the Sam linebacker spot in 2016. Cooper missed nearly the final nine games of the season after an injury, but played in six total games. Brown played in 12 games as a true freshman last year, most notably blocking his first career kick in the win against Ohio State, halting a Buckeye punt in the fourth quarter.
Brown added nearly 10 pounds to his frame in the offseason and tied for first on the team with seven tackles in the annual Blue-White game, with Pry praising his length and explosive ability at media day.
“He’s got a great skill set for a long guy, really good work ethic, tough kid,” Pry said. “He’s growing into the position. I don’t know if he’s a natural linebacker when he first got here, but he’s growing into the position. I look for big things from Cam this fall. He’s in heavy competition in the two-deep at linebacker.”
Bowen also returns as a Nittany Lion with tremendous experience, playing in 13 games last year, including 12 starts at Will linebacker for the Nittany Lions. Bringing versatility, Bowen finished fifth on the team with 68 tackles, logging six or more tackles in six games.
Both Jarvis Miller and Koa Farmer made the transition to linebacker for the Nittany Lions, playing in all 14 games, with Farmer earning a pair of starts. This spring, Pry mentioned that he was pleased with the progress that Farmer was making at Sam linebacker – and his excitement hasn’t slowed.
“To me, he’s what a lot of folks are looking for,” Pry said at media day. “He’s a hybrid type player that has a lot of DB qualities – I think his roots are there for sure, but he’s growing as a linebacker. He’s getting tougher. He’s shedding blocks better. His tackling is getting better. He understands the play in the box, blocking schemes, things like that. He’s really come a long way. I’m very excited about the season for Koa.”