Penn State will likely be without one of its most experienced linebackers when the season begins in August.
According to a report from Lions 24-7, junior linebacker Ben Kline will miss the 2014 season after he tore an Achilles’ tendon during an informal workout session Tuesday. Kline and sources close to him could not be reached for comment. Penn State does not confirm injury statuses of players.
The loss of Kline — who was listed as the team’s starter at outside linebacker coming out of spring practice — is a major blow to a defense already thin on experienced linebackers. For Kline, it’s a continuation of a tough run of bad luck.
He battled a nagging shoulder injury after having surgery last offseason and was limited to nine games in 2013. Kline posted a season-best four tackles against Illinois in Week 8 before a torn pectoral suffered against Minnesota ended his season the next week. Kline finished the game against the Golden Gophers and picked up two tackles in the loss.
Kline said he was nearing 100 percent health this spring but was being held out of contact injuries as a precautionary measure.
Kline used a redshirt year in 2011 and has another year of eligibility remaining.
Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions don’t have many proven options remaining at Kline’s position.
Aside from senior middle linebacker Mike Hull, Penn State’s other linebackers have combined for limited in-game playing experience at the position.
Sophomore linebacker Nyeem Wartman has played in 13 games dating to the start of the 2012 season but has earned just eight starts. Sophomore Brandon Bell earned his first start in the season finale against Wisconsin last season and played in 10 games. Both Bell and Wartman spent time flanking Hull during spring practice.
Wartman and Bell mad 32 and 24 tackles last season, respectively.
Bell, then a true freshman, took advantage when his fellow linebackers went down with ailments last season. He worked his way into the rotation as Hull battled a sore knee and Kline, Wartman and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong dealt with shoulder issues. Now, a similar situation could play out for a handful of incoming true freshmen.
Prospects Troy Reeder and Jason Cabinda are set to join the Nittany Lions this summer.
Meanwhile, former State College High standout Matt Baney earned a good amount of playing time in the spring and was listed as Kline’s backup on the team’s final spring practice depth chart. Sophomore Gary Wooten played primarily on special teams last season but has continued to draw praise from his teammates as a viable defensive option.