Penn State Football: linebackers carry lots of uncertainty

Penn State football has one starter returning in the linebacking corp. They’ll need some contributors to step up in order to succeed on defense.

Koa Farmer went from the new guy to the seasoned vet when the final second of the Fiesta Bowl ticked off the clock. The Nittany Lions might own the moniker “Linebacker-U” but this group will need some fast-progressing players to keep that alive next fall.  Luckily, Penn State football carries some of the most talented young linebackers in the country.

To start off, Farmer leads all teams in experience and will start at strong side linebacker like he did this year. He started 11 games and recorded 47 tackles and 5.5 for loss, bringing his career total to 76 stops and 10 for loss.

His production hasn’t been out-of-this-world, but he does make momentum-changing plays when he gets to the football. The former defensive back plays like an extra safety in the box. That makes the linebackers faster and better in pass coverage.

Lanky junior Cam Brown finally gets his shot to start after playing significant time in the first two years. After two years, the 6-foot-5, former four-star recruit plays like a thumper despite being a bit thinner than normal linebackers. Similar to Farmer when it comes to speed, they’ll set the edges with Brown at weak side linebacker. With 63 career tackles in his first two years, they’ll have plenty production returning at outside linebacker (Video Courtesy of Nittany Nation).

Those two speedsters have nice depth behind them as well. Jake Cooper and Jarvis Miller add quality experience and production. Both should see time and might even get time at the middle linebacker spot since there’s no clear-cut guy there.

Jan Johnson has the only experience in the middle with 14 career tackles (12 in 2017) in two years. He’ll likely battle with incoming freshmen and the other named contributors outside for the starting job. Although some of these guys have quality playing time, all but one have started on a regular basis. So the starting job shake out will be a grudge match at the middle.