Signing Day is just a few days away but you won't find a true linebacker in Penn State's 2017 recruiting class. After losing four-star linebacker Dylan Rivers who flipped to Virginia Tech, Linebacker-U is almost Linebacker-Less. A position that has been a hallmark of the program has become one of the most slim position groups on the roster.
Currently, Penn State has two recruits that appear to have the versatility to fit into the roster as a linebacker but aren't true linebackers. Brelin Faison-Walden is a four-star safety/linebacker that enrolled early and is currently on campus. His versatility seemingly comes from his size as he is listed to be 6-1, 201 pounds. Additionally, Penn State is waiting for the final signature on Signing Day to officially welcome Brailyn Franklin to the team. Similar in size to Faison-Walden, Franklin measures up to have a 6-2, 200 pound frame. The 3-star recruit who played wide receiver in high school also projects to slot in as a linebacker when he begins his career as a Nittany Lion. Both players are similar to Koa Farmer who made many contributions last season as a converted safety to linebacker.
With Signing Day quickly approaching, Penn State is aiming to haul in four-star recruit Ellis Brooks. Brooks is the true linebacker that they are looking for as it was his natural position in high school. He checks in at 6-2, 233 pounds and could see immediate playing time if he so chooses Penn State.
With the loss of Brandon Bell to graduation, Penn State can use some reinforcements. Add in the possibility of another rash of injuries similar to the one that plagued the linebacker core last year, the Nittany Lions can certainly benefit from deeper depth in that department.
As for the immediate future, defensive coordinator Brent Pry should roll out a linebacker group featuring Jason Cabinda as the middle linebacker and the defense's main leader. Surrounding him should be Manny Bowen as the strong side linebacker. The remaining starting spot projects to be filled by some combination of new freshman, Koa Farmer, Cam Brown, and Brandon Smith, although Smith's natural position is middle linebacker. This however, is not set in stone, as we saw last year, Penn State likes to make use of personnel changes during defensive series to keep players fresh.
Heading into the upcoming season, Penn State's linebacker group may be one of the slimmest groups on the team but hopefully in time it will be restored as Linebacker-U's strongest group.