Penn State's injury situation looks encouraging at linebacker, while the news isn't as good for the defensive end spot.
Coach Joe Paterno said Tuesday that linebackers Bani Gbadyu (calf), Gerald Hodges (leg) and Michael Mauti (ankle) have returned to practice and should play Saturday at Minnesota. Paterno sounded a bit more optimistic about both Mauti and Gbadyu but said Hodges, who has missed four games, went through practice Monday and might return.
The prognosis at defensive end looks less promising. Starter Eric Latimore (wrist) will miss three to five more weeks, and starter Jack Crawford is still battling back from a right foot injury that sidelined him against Illinois.
"I doubt if we'll have Crawford [at Minnesota]," Paterno said. "There's an outside chance."
Paterno also said wide receiver Curtis Drake (leg) hasn't suited up for practice yet and likely will be redshirted.
"We're banged up," Paterno said, "but that's the way it goes. You've got to do the best you can with what you have, and a couple of guys have to rise to the occasion."
Keep in mind that Penn State brought in the Big Ten's top recruiting class in February, so there's talent there, albeit young talent. With so many key defenders out or banged up, Penn State will need to lean on the offense more down the stretch.