Penn State Football

What Cam Brown's work at middle linebacker means for Penn State's fluid situation

Penn State's situation at middle linebacker won't be resolved until the fall, but Cam Brown may have the early lead at the position.
Penn State's situation at middle linebacker won't be resolved until the fall, but Cam Brown may have the early lead at the position. Centre Daily Times, file

Penn State's situation at middle linebacker won't be solved until the fall, so anything happening in April ought to be taken with a grain of salt. But Cam Brown's current status is worth examining.

Apparently, Brown's work at middle linebacker during Monday night's two-minute drill wasn't a one-off. The junior confirmed Tuesday on a conference call that his spring reps have come primarily at the 'Mike,' where Penn State is trying to find a replacement for long-time stalwart Jason Cabinda.

But is Brown just a placeholder at 'Mike' until younger options — particularly Ellis Brooks and Micah Parsons — get comfortable with the authoritative role? Or is the previously projected starter at 'Will' making a legitimate play to be Cabinda's successor?

At least for now, it sounds like the latter.

"I was kind of expecting it," Brown said of the reps inside. "Coach (Brent) Pry has guided me very well. Along the way, even through the winter, he was talking with me and making sure I was looking into the playbook a little bit more, making sure I know the whole scheme of the defense and not just my position of 'Will' or 'Sam' like before. He made sure I understood everything that was going on."

The junior said he's "pretty comfortable" at 'Mike,' despite seeing a heavy workload at the other linebacker positions in 2017. He's trying to become stronger and heavier before the 2018 season, but the lanky 6-foot-5 linebacker listed at 222 pounds believes he can "maneuver well enough in the box" at his current weight.

Brown isn't concerned about his body as much as his presence.

The Maryland native knows he needs to improve the vocal aspect of his game. Pry told the CDT that Cabinda "could say the wrong thing and all 11 would do it 110 miles per hour," and Brown wants to get to that point. Making calls and barking out adjustments has been "a challenge" he's determined to conquer.

"When you're confident in your call, they'll follow you. That's being a leader on defense," Brown said. "That confidence Jason showed is kind of what I'm striving for, looking to be the 'Mike.'"

Of course, Brown isn't alone there. Brooks, Parsons and Jesse Luketa want the job; so do veterans Jan Johnson and Jake Cooper. Koa Farmer — the projected starter at 'Sam' — could get in on the competition, too.

When asked about legit candidates for the starting spot at 'Mike,' Penn State head coach James Franklin said Monday night — after 13 spring practices — that there are "too many to count."

"Right now, I wouldn't say that we know what the answer is," Franklin said. "I think we'll be pretty far into (fall) camp before we decide."

Between now and then, there figures to be more movement in the linebacker room. Brown knows that.

But in the meantime — as Saturday's Blue-White Game approaches — the junior is trying to capitalize on the opportunity in front of him.

"I feel really comfortable," Brown said. "I'm learning step by step, day by day."

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