Penn State LB Wartman-White lost for season with injury

STATE COLLEGE (AP) – Brandon Smith spent early weekdays last year studying opposing defenses so he could copy players’ characteristics and mimic tactics as the leader of Penn State’s scout team defense.

Now, he’ll lead the real thing.

The former walk-on linebacker is expected to make his first start in the middle of a banged up defense that’s lost all three starting linebackers to injuries when Penn State (2-1) plays at No. 4 Michigan (3-0) on Saturday. Penn State coach James Franklin announced Tuesday that Nyeem Wartman-White will miss the remainder of the season with a right knee injury suffered midway through the Temple game. His second season-ending injury in as many years is the latest blow for a unit already without Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda. Neither appear ready to return for Saturday’s game. Wartman-White began the season at outside linebacker and shifted back to the middle with Cabinda out.

When Wartman-White went down, it left Penn State with sophomores Jake Cooper and Manny Bowen, neither of whom had experienced calling the defense. Penn State needed a voice that carried some seniority and experience, even if it was as a captain on the scout team.

Enter Smith.

“He’s been here four years and he’s played three defensive snaps,” Franklin said. “He played 57 plays on Saturday. I think the confidence he displayed and how he called the defense I think helped.”