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Linebacker Who?

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Why it may not be long before a pair of freshmen are starting at linebacker for the Nittany Lions

It was the talk of the town all throughout spring and summer.

“Who will Penn State start at linebacker this year?”

The Nittany Lions lost Jason Cabinda to graduation and Manny Bowen to off-field issues, meaning at least two of three spots were wide open.

The candidates included Cam Brown, Koa Farmer, Jan Johnson, Ellis Brooks, Micah Parsons, Jake Cooper, Jarvis Miller and Jesse Luketa.

By the end of summer, it was experience that won out, as Brown, Farmer and Johnson each claimed week one starting roles.

But that doesn’t mean anything’s set in stone.

After an opening week performance that we’ll call “troublesome,” the questions about the linebacker corps is back.

Brown separated himself, showing that he belonged at his outside linebacker spot, but Johnson and Farmer struggled, with the latter doing so mightily.

In the second half the game against Appalachian State, Johnson and Farmer were often rotated out for redshirt freshman Ellis Brooks and true Freshman Micah Parsons.

Brooks was considered by some to be the favorite for the middle linebacker spot heading into camp and showed why with a handful of solid plays, though he was credited with just one tackle.

Parsons, meanwhile, is an ultra-talented five-star recruit and showed exactly why when he was on the field in place of Farmer. Though his over-exuberance caused a few miscues, including overrunning his lane on kickoff return for a touchdown, the physical tools were obvious.

The Harrisburg, Pa. native gets sideline to sideline quicker than any other linebacker on the roster and has a nose for the football. Parsons finished the contest with four tackles and looked every bit the part of someone who deserves more playing time.

While there’s a good chance Franklin goes with experience over youth again on Saturday in a tough environment against a team that can do some funky stuff pre-snap, don’t be surprised if Parsons and Brooks have usurped Farmer and Johnson as starters by the time that Ohio State rolls into town on Sept. 29.