Old school neck roll and all which, by all accounts from practice so far, he will be wearing once again, Cabinda has manned the Mike linebacker spot with perfection. He's a warrior that has run the gauntlet in Blue and White. He was there for the lows and he relished the high of raising that Big Ten trophy. With a season to go, he's 133 tackles away from overtaking Dan Connor as the all-time Nittany Lion leader. Whether that far-reaching feat happens or not, his legacy is already etched in stone.
Cabinda may call the shots but the rest of Linebacker-U is far from an afterthought. Brandon Smith moved to the outside recently, filled in for the injured Cabinda a year ago and played like a man on fire in his place. He may not get the start in 2017, but his leadership is invaluable as the former walk-on heads into his senior year. Manny Bowen returns a year wiser after missing the Rose Bowl for a violation of team rules and by all accounts has positioned himself for redemption. Cam Brown looks to build on a stellar freshman campaign and Jake Cooper returns after having his season cut short a year ago due to an injury.
The X factor of them all could be redshirt junior, Koa Farmer, who has finally found a home at the hybrid Star position, a combination safety/linebacker used on passing situations. His play down the stretch as Penn State made its nine-game run was darn near unstoppable and he heads into his junior campaign having created a niche for himself on the Nittany Lion D. His protégé, redshirt sophomore Jarvis Miller, made a splash of his own at this April’s Blue-White game and could provide an added element when the time comes. The trio of true freshmen Ellis Brooks, Brelin Franklin, and Brailyn Faison-Walden could provide depth if needed, but would be better served waiting in the wings.
It's no secret that Linebacker-U was decimated by the injury bug in 2016. By the time Penn State took on Michigan in late September, the unit was down to walk-ons and true freshmen. The silver lining was those Linebackers who stepped in got experience they never would have gained otherwise. Smith became a stabilizing force; Brown proved that pulling his redshirt paid massive dividends; Farmer wreaked havoc on opposing QB's down the stretch. Defensive Coordinator, Brent Pry, turned in a masterful coaching job piecing it all together until the starters made it back. They enter 2017 injury-free and ready to rumble with a new era of speed in their arsenal. The man in the middle may run the show, but Cabinda and company are chock-full of defensive weapons as they set their sights on defending the Big Ten Title!