Sheepish grins accompany essentially every interview Penn State offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach gives.
Available Saturday afternoon as part of the day's Lift for Life festivities on campus, Dieffenbach spoke to the media for the first time since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in late March. More than three full months into the rehabilitation of his knee, the Nittany Lions' senior leader along the offensive lineman cracked his trademark smile when discussing the possibility of a return to action in his final year of eligibility.
"I'm very hopeful," he said. "The knee is doing very well and I hope to make it back for the season."
How much of the season Dieffenbach is able to return to see remains an unknown, but working every day at the Lasch Building from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., he said he's eying a possible come back for the team's final three or four games.
In fact, for as optimistic as injured players can often be in the aftermath of serious setbacks, the potential reality of Dieffenbach's return was made even clearer by the comments of team strength coach Dwight Galt Sr.
"With Miles, he is just doing so well with his rehab. I mean, really, really doing well. So we're pushing him as far as Dr. (Scott) Lynch and Tim Bream will allow us to push him, but really doing a great job," Galt said. "He took his weight down, which is really smart. That's kind of an advanced, veteran player 101. When you're a big lineman and you gotta get your movement back, take you're weight down, get everything back and then right before you play, you get it back up, so he's been really smart with that too. Hopefully we'll get to see him a lot this year."
Though he wouldn't participate in any of the weightlifting and conditioning activities, Dieffenbach could be seen walking well without a knee brace. Working his way through a rehabilitation process that involves countless hours of work, Dieffenbach has also embraced his role as a type of mentor and coach to a room that has no other seniors.
Teaching technique and drills, Dieffenbach stressed the importance of getting the still-thin unit ready for the season ahead.
"That's definitely a big part of my role this summer, especially since I can't really do a lot of the workouts they're doing. I'm really kind of a coach for them," he said. "We really gotta get these guys ready for a tough season, which it will be. So we have some good talent up front and I think we're going to do a great job."