Whatever injury bug the Penn State linebacking corps had early in the season has seemingly made its way over to the offensive line.
First it was three-year starter Andrew Nelson who went down with a possibly season-ending injury against Maryland on Oct. 1.
A little more than a month later, Brendan Mahon, who moved from left to right tackle to replace Nelson, exited last weekend’s win over Iowa with an unspecified injury, and this past week was admitted to Hershey Medical Center.
And then Saturday happened.
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The Nittany Lions, starting Paris Palmer and Chasz Wright at left and right tackle, respectively, lost Palmer after the first drive. He left the game, and returned to the sidelines for the second half in street clothes and with crutches.
Then, as if nothing else could go wrong for the unit, true freshman guard Connor McGovern was absent on the Nittany Lions’ final scoring drive due to injury. McGovern has started the last six games.
“I think we have one offensive lineman playing the position he played at the beginning of the season, center Brian Gaia,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries.”
That would be a massive understatement.
Gaia, a senior, said he’s never seen anything like it: not in his four years at Penn State or in high school.
He compared it to the bevy of injuries that ravaged Penn State’s linebackers early in the season, with as many as seven out with injury.
“We’re more of a unit,” Gaia added. “But yeah they definitely went through some of the same struggles, just getting young guys ready to play.”
Now, Franklin has to weigh the possibility of using Will Fries, a freshman tackle who’s been redshirting this year.
Fries didn’t travel to the Indiana game. After moving starting guard Ryan Bates out to tackle in Palmer’s place, the move would’ve been to Sterling Jenkins if Bates went down.
However, Franklin seems like he may now consider Fries as a viable option.
“He’s still not out of the question now that we have another injury,” Franklin said. “They’re committed to playing, whatever it takes to help the team. But that’s a conversation at this point in the season that we have to have.”