Headed into the 2014 season, the jury was out on whether then-freshman Jason Cabinda would use his redshirt. The consensus three-star linebacker, a one-time Syracuse commit who flipped under Bill O'Brien, had just been on campus for a mere matter of months, and there was, of course, a ton of talent at the linebacker position, led by all-everything middle linebacker Mike Hull.
But then injuries came calling by the end of September, and the Northwestern game, and the decision was made to pull Cabinda's redshirt. The New Jersey native didn't look back, logging time in eight of the last nine games of the season and cementing his place as the third starter headed into 2015, alongside Brandon Bell and Nyeem Wartman-White.
Cabinda was thought by many to be the weakest of the trio, just by nature of being the youngest and most unproven. That was quickly dispelled after the first week, when Wartman-White went down with a season-ending injury and the season's plans of Cabinda and Bell flanking Nyeem were thrown to the wayside, and Cabinda shifted to the middle starting in game two, taking over a completely different role than the one he had prepared all offseason for.
And how did he respond to that sort of pressure? Oh, no big deal--just leading the team in tackles with 100 (39 solo), one of only two non-defensive linemen to start all thirteen games. He got better as the season went on as well, logging 5.5 tackles for loss (impressive, but almost par for the course for last year's TFL-happy defense), 2.5 sacks, 1 interception, 5 passes broken up, six passes defended, and one forced fumble.
And he showed that he knew how to get the big play just when the team needed him to:
For a player that didn't even show up on our preseason top 10 list, Cabinda's said to have locked down the MLB position headed into the 2016 season, even with Wartman-White's return. After only one year of full-time play, it will only get better from here for this young LBU standout.