That void was temporary.
Senior Tyrell Sales, the most experienced linebacker on the roster now, stepped up to become that leader, a role he enjoys.
"It's a great opportunity," Sales said earlier this week. "[With] Sean going down, guys look to me a little bit more for a little bit of leadership, leading on the field, off the field. It's just an opportunity that I'm grateful to have and I'd never want to regret anything, so I want to just keep playing and playing hard, make plays, going out there, giving my heart to the team."
It's a role that not only sees him take charge on the field but off it, too. The other two first-team linebackers -- redshirt sophomore Bani Gbadyu and redshirt junior Josh Hull had -- never started a game prior to Penn State's opener against Coastal Carolina.
"I feel like I have [stepped up]," Sales said. "I feel like the guys have responded."
Sales finished the Oregon State game with 10 tackles, including nine solos, to the lead the Lions. It was a performance that had his coaches saying he played markedly better in week two than he did in week one, and gave him the team lead in season stops (17) heading into this week's game at Syracuse.
"I just played a little more comfortably,” Sales said. “I've played a lot of football, but the first game's always the toughest one. The coaches always say you make your biggest improvement as a team and individually from the first game to the second game, more than you do any other time throughout the season. You haven't played football for nine months and you go out there and you make some little mistakes, but the little mistakes I made the first week, I straightened those out the second week. And I just gotta keep progressing, keep getting better and keep playing my game and paying attention to details and I think I'll keep improving each week.”