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March 30, 2014

Lions suffer tough spring break

Blue White Illustrated's Ryan Snyder is reporting Sunday morning that early injury news out of Penn State's spring practice session is not good for the Nittany Lions.

Fifth-year senior guard Miles Dieffenbach has suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, multiple sources have reported to Blue White Illustrated, leaving the Nittany Lions without one of the mainstays of their offensive line for the spring, summer, and quite possibly through the 2014 season.

Though head coach James Franklin would not comment on specific injuries at his brief press conference Saturday afternoon following the eighth Penn State practice of the spring, his words revealed a growing level of concern about holes on the Nittany Lions' offensive line and at wideout.

As it relates to the offensive line, the news regarding the severity of Dieffenbach's injury reveals insight to the concern.

Asked what he's seen from tackle Andrew Nelson and Dieffenbach, Franklin's answer was succinct, "Not enough... Not enough."

Dressing just 10 total offensive linemen at the team's practice on Saturday morning, the Franklin and the Nittany Lions' coaching staff are now preparing for the very real possibility that true freshmen will be needed to help stabilize an already extremely thin unit along the offensive line.

"Some positions are hard to solve with what we currently have on the roster. So that's where the recruits will help with that," Franklin said Saturday. "I think we're going to have to play a lot of freshmen. I typically would prefer not to do that but, I've already been direct messaging these guys and telling them they need to come in with the mentality they're going to play.

"Typically, there's certain positions like offensive line that you would like to redshirt and, really, you know where you're at as a program where really good offensive linemen and defensive linemen are playing by their sophomore year. We're going to have to play all of these guys as true freshmen and just grow with them."

Along with tackle Chasz Wright, who is already practicing with the Nittany Lions this spring, Penn State's other incoming true freshmen offensive linemen include Noah Beh, Brendan Brosnan and Chance Sorrell.

Starting in all 12 games for the Nittany Lions last season, Dieffenbach is coming off a season in which he solidified himself as a key component of an offensive line that helped produce three running backs accumulating more than 2,100 combined rushing yards. Additionally, along with seniors John Urschel and Ty Howle on the interior of the line, Dieffenbach helped keep true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg upright, allowing just 1.83 sacks per game.

Having used a redshirt his first season on Penn State's campus, no indication has been given as to whether or not Dieffenbach could apply for a sixth-year medical hardship.

Dieffenbach has started 23 games in his career at Penn State, earning the Frank Patrick Total Commitment award from former coach Bill O'Brien at the 2013 Blue-White Game for consistently displaying a "total commitment to academics, off-season preparation, in-season commitment and community service."

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