Penn State Football Early Position Preview: Linebacker


While it might not seem it right now, Penn State football is still the home to Linebacker U.

Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry will be tasked this season with replacing key players on defense.

Perhaps none bigger than the quintessential Penn State linebacker, Jason Cabinda. He had the neck roll, the scowl and the tenacity that some of the greatest linebackers in Penn State history possessed.

As if it weren’t going to be difficult enough to replace Cabinda, the Nittany Lions also need to replace starting outside linebacker Manny Bowen, who left the program after several off-field incidents.

Those are two big losses, as is the loss of Brandon Smith, a backup who played some critical minutes overs the last two seasons.

It won’t be easy, but this is Linebacker U, so lets take a look at how we’re going to prove it this year.

Check it out, I went a whole five paragraphs without mentioning Micah Parsons. Of course, now my head feels like an over-inflated balloon about to pop in excitement, but we’re not at Parsons yet.

Koa Farmer is the key to the Penn State linebacking corps this season. The senior has played both on the strong and weak sides, but will most likely spend the majority of his time on the strong side.

Farmer had 47 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and one sack last season. Those numbers should and will increase.

Opposite Farmer will most likely be Cam Brown, who had 30 tackles last year. With more playing time, the junior should have a big impact.

Penn State fans should be happy to have two guys with experience and talent on the edge. That leaves the middle up for grabs.

Now, it’s time for Parsons.

Recruited as a defensive end, Parsons is in contention this spring to win the middle linebacker job. Penn State fans are aware of his talent, but will he be able to pick up the nuances of the position quickly enough?

Jan Johnson, Ellis Brooks and Jake Cooper are all returning players who will compete for the job. Parsons will also be competing with freshmen Jesse Luketa and Nick Tarburton as well. Both have been touted for their intelligence, as is expected with four-star recruits. Luketa is a great athlete at the position, and Tarburton is a bruising run-stopper in the middle.

Spring ball will be very telling. Some of the guys mentioned above will move into backup rolls behind Farmer, Brown and whichever player wins the competition in the middle.

Whoever it may be, they will be tasked with filling some huge shoes. Not just those of Cabinda, but those every legendary linebacker to put on the blue and white.

It is not easy to replace key players, but Pry and the Nittany Lions have enough experience, options and talent, to once again make the Penn State linebacking corps one of the most dominant in the country.

Fans will want Parsons in the middle, and that may happen. The truth is, wherever he plays he will have an impact.

Related Story: Penn State 2018 Early Position Preview: Quarterback

The key for this unit will be depth, and the Nittany Lions have plenty.