Penn State expects defensive tackle PJ Mustipher to be ready when the team plays its season opener at Purdue, coach James Franklin told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
Mustipher, who established himself as a leader and one of the rocks of Penn State’s defense, went down with a season-ending injury last October at Iowa.
This January, Mustipher announced that he’d be returning to Penn State for his fifth year, and now, it looks like he’ll be healthy enough to play Week 1.
Mustipher’s return would be a big boost– literally and metaphorically– for Penn State’s defense.
Franklin said Mustipher wants to play as soon as possible, but the coach reminded his player there’s no rush.
I think, sometimes, younger players that haven’t played a whole lot, you’re kind of anxious, almost rushing them to get back as soon as they possibly can,” Franklin said. “But with a player as experienced as he is– and PJ’s a hard-charging guy–, we actually have to do it the opposite and pull him back. But, mentally, he’ll obviously be ready, and physically, he’s pretty far along.”
With 85 days before Penn State’s season opener at Purdue, Franklin said Mustipher is “trending in the right direction.”
“Our trainers and doctors have done a fantastic job with him,” Franklin said. “The doctor that did his surgery in New York did a fantastic job.”
Last season, Penn State’s defense almost immediately felt the effect of Mustipher’s injury. Penn State ended up losing to Iowa– its first loss of the year– and the next week, with Mustipher not in the middle of Penn State’s defense, Illinois rushed for 357 yards in a shocking upset on HOmecoming at Beaver Stadium.
Mustipher is undoubtedly ecstatic about his impending return, and the Penn State coaching staff will be happy, too.
“We’re excited about having him back,” Franklin said, “not just as a player, but as a leader as well. He’s been phenomenal.