The inexperienced unit could get a boost from the return of one of its leaders against Penn State (3-2, 0-1). The teams, who will play annually as Big Ten East Division rivals beginning next season, haven't met since 2010, when Penn State won 41-31 in State College, Pa.
Though a little coy about the likelihood of Jake Ryan's return during a Monday press conference, Hoke said doctors have cleared the All-Big Ten linebacker, who has been sidelined since suffering a knee injury in March. Hoke said Ryan is "wanting to play," but that the coaching staff will evaluate him throughout the week to be sure "he can do the things he's capable of doing."
Ryan led the team in tackles (88), tackles for loss (16) and sacks (4.5) last season.
Penn State gained just 70 yards rushing on 38 carries during a 44-24 loss at Indiana last week, though freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for 340 yards on a school-record 55 pass attempts.
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