LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Penn State coach James Franklin sounded a hopeful, but cautious, tone Tuesday regarding his team's injury situation at linebacker.

Franklin said that injured linebackers Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell could return for Penn State's game Saturday against No. 2 Ohio State. The players have missed a combined 9.5 games this season.

Cabinda, who started the season at middle linebacker, has not played since the opener against Kent State. Bell was hurt the following week against Pitt.

In addition, Franklin said that a third linebacker, Jake Cooper, could return as well. Cooper, who has started two games, was injured against Minnesota and did not play against Maryland.

In all, six Penn State linebackers have missed more than 17 combined games this season because of injuries. Two, starter Nyeem Wartman-White and walk-on Jan Johnson, sustained season-ending injuries.

Though he called Cabinda and Bell's potential returns "a nice bonus," Franklin was careful in describing their effectiveness. The coach said neither has practiced significantly and both need to be cleared medically.

"We're excited about the possibility of having them back, but you also have to say that these guys haven't practiced, they haven't played, they haven't been in games for a number of weeks," Franklin said. "So to think they are going to jump back and be the players the were before they left, I don't think that's realistic."