UNIVERSITY PARK — The Penn State football team has lost a key component along its offensive line.
Guard Miles Dieffenbach will likely miss his senior season after suffering a serious knee injury during practice, multiple sources confirmed to the CDT. Blue White Illustrated first reported the injury as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. Penn State coach James Franklin said he will not release injury reports.
Dieffenbach was absent from the 20 minutes open to the media during Penn State’s eighth spring practice on Saturday. Afterward, Franklin briefly addressed his team’s depth issues up front without providing specific updates on certain players.
“At offense we have some holes in the starting lineup, we really do,” Franklin said. “We have to be creative and find ways to solve issues. ... Right now there’s not a whole lot that we can do to solve issues. We have moved people around.”
Before spring practice began, former defensive linemen Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia moved to guard. Dowrey is listed at 6-foot-3, 303 pounds with Gaia checking in at 6-3, 280 pounds.
While Dowrey and Gaia — both with sophomore eligibility — played reserve roles last season along the defensive line, Penn State will likely have to turn to a handful of freshmen to augment its offensive line depth, Franklin said.
“I typically would prefer not to do that but I’ve already been direct messaging these guys and telling them they need to come in with the mentality that they’re going to play,” Franklin said. “Typically there are certain positions like offensive line that you would like to redshirt and really, you’re where you’re at as a program when really good offensive linemen and defensive linemen are playing by their sophomore year. We’re going to have to play all these guys as true freshmen and just grow with them.”
Penn State brought in true freshman Chasz Wright as an early enrollee, and the 6-7, 321-pound tackle will be joined by three other offensive tackles — Chance Sorrell, Brendan Brosnan and Noah Beh — in training camp. In the meantime, the Nittany Lions have redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson and junior Donovan Smith, a returning starter at left tackle, back.
But Dieffenbach’s injury leaves Penn State with a big hole at left guard, where he started all 12 games last season in addition to 11 starts there in 2012. The Nittany Lions were already tasked with replacing right guard John Urschel.
Among the interior offensive linemen on the roster, only junior Angelo Mangiro has seen extended playing time over the last two seasons. Mangiro, who is a candidate to lock down the starting center spot vacated by Ty Howle, played in all 24 games in 2012 and 2013. Meanwhile, sophomore Wendy Laurent saw time in five games last season.
Former defensive tackle Anthony Alosi got into seven games last season after spending time as a reserve along the defensive line in 2012. Freshmen Evan Galimberti, Brendan Mahon, Tom Devenney and Andrew Terlingo all redshirted last season.
Dieffenbach has been noted by his teammates for his sharp sense of humor and his locker room leadership. He is a Dean’s List student and was selected to the 2012 and 2013 Academic All-Big Ten Teams.
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @bytravisjohnson.