Senior safety Ryan Keiser is “improving” after undergoing numerous operations at Hershey Medical Center to repair a torn bowel suffered when Keiser fractured a rib in practice last week, Penn State coach James Franklin said Tuesday.
Franklin announced Monday that Keiser would miss the rest of the season and his aunt posted on Facebook on Monday asking for prayers for her nephew and claimed Keiser was suffering from sepsis, inflammation that can be potentially fatal.
Franklin said he’s been in contact with Keiser and his family and said the safety did not suffer any infection.
“I wanted to make sure that we’re clear,” Franklin said. “Ryan’s family has our complete support. I’ve talked to his mother, talked to Ryan. Our trainers and doctors have been in constant contact or have been involved every step of the way, and I just want to clear that up because I know how the Penn State community supports one another. I wanted to make sure that everybody understands clearly what’s going on.”
Franklin did not elaborate on Keiser’s status, saying only that he was getting better and any other information would be released by Keiser’s family.
A fifth-year senior who walked on to the team and earned a scholarship prior to the 2012 season, Keiser played in 42 of a possible 43 games. He was named a co-captain this season and finished his career with four interceptions with 11 starts.
“I love everything about him,” Franklin said. “He is one of the nicest, most kind, most thoughtful kids I’ve been around. Same thing with his family. He’s an unbelievable teammate, is really coachable. He’s got really strong faith and spirituality and he shared that with the team. He’s a special guy.”
By losing Keiser, Penn State also loses one of its most vocal on-field leaders of one of the country’s better secondaries. Penn State is allowing just over 200 yards per game and has given up just four touchdowns to opposing passing attacks.
Renowned amongst his teammates for his football IQ, Keiser was responsible for communicating coaching signals and cues to his teammates in the secondary in games. He was third on the team with 25 tackles before he was hurt.
“Without him there, some calls might have been missed or might get missed in the future that normally he’d get me right on or he might help out on,” senior linebacker Mike Hull said. “So that’s the biggest way we’re going to miss him.”
Keiser’s spot on defense was filled primarily by true freshman Marcus Allen during Penn State’s double-overtime loss to No. 13 Ohio State on Saturday. Allen, who’s played in every game this season, played well in his most extended action yet.
The true freshman broke up two passes and finished third on the team with 11 tackles.
Franklin was pleased with Allen’s performance and the rest of Penn State’s defenders are looking forward to seeing what the rookie will bring for the rest of the season.
“He needs to do his job,” Franklin said. “One of the big discussions that we had the last couple of weeks is, guys, try to do too much. They try to make a play and when you try to make a play that's when you usually give up a big play. If you can consistently do your job and do your responsibility, the plays will come. I think he's figuring that out.”
Penn State also lost senior Zach Zwinak to a season-ending injury. Zwinak was hurt on the opening kickoff when he injured his left leg throwing a block. Zwinak was carted off the field and saluted the fans at Beaver Stadium, a routine that was often Zwinak’s trademark celebration after touchdown runs. Zwinak finished with 18 of them and 2,108 yards in 31 games with 12 starts.
Zwinak, known for his punishing running style and emergence late in the 2012 season — a year he finished with 1,000 rushing yards despite not starting until the ninth game, had 40 carries for 124 yards and three touchdowns this season.
"I'm good friends with both of those guys,” Hull said. “It's hard whenever you lose players like that. But we have really good young players that are going to step up and do their job. But it's hard to lose guys like Keiser and Zach as far as from a leadership standpoint.”
Zwinak’s injury leaves Bill Belton as the only senior available to help the offense. He and Akeel Lynch will continue to split rushing duties.