Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib spent most of his high school and college football careers on the sidelines. That is, until he exploded onto the scene this season and got folks across the country talking about the former walk-on from Malvern Prep.
On Saturday, after logging at least one sack in each previous game, the redshirt senior was back on the sidelines, missing in action for all but the first couple defensive plays due to an undisclosed injury. He watched Penn State fall to the Wolverines 28-16 on senior day in front of a White Out crowd.
Penn State coach James Franklin said Wednesday after practice that he hoped to have Nassib back on Saturday when the Nittany Lions take on sixth-ranked Michigan State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) in East Lansing.
“Obviously not having Carl Nassib last week, one of the better players in the country, one of the most productive players in the country, you could make an argument he could’ve been the difference in five plays,” Franklin said. “Those five plays could’ve been significant, so hopefully we can get him back as well as some other guys.”
After being a major contributor all season, standing on the sidelines and watching the Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-3) lose was difficult for Nassib, Franklin said.
“He was really disappointed on Saturday. He was really disappointed because it wasn’t getting better fast enough,” Franklin said. “You could tell he wasn’t going to be able to be able to go and he tried to go a couple plays and we had to shut him down.”
“He’s an ultimate teammate in terms of attitude and approach and demeanor,” Franklin added. “I think more than anything it killed him to be on the sideline in a big game for us at home, his last game at home and a closely contested game where he could have been the difference.”
Even without playing in the most recent game, Nassib still leads the nation in sacks (15.5), tackles for loss (19.5), and forced fumbles (6), according to the Football Bowl Subdivision Statistics.
Just this week he was named a finalist for both the Bednarik Award for defensive player of the year and the Burlsworth Trophy for the country’s top walk-on. He’s also a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy for the best defensive player and the Lombardi Award for the top lineman.
During a holiday week in which the team is preparing for a tough opponent, Franklin said there unfortunately aren’t many precautions he can take to make sure players are healthy for game day.