Three Players To Watch For In Place Of Suspended Bowen And Blacknall
Penn State was dealt an internal blow ahead of its Rose Bowl matchup with USC after wide receiver Saeed Blacknall and linebacker Manny Bowen were both dealt suspensions for violating team rules.
These aren’t minor suspensions; both Blacknall and Bowen have been key players in Penn State’s magical run to the Rose Bowl, with Blacknall’s emergence coming later in the year. His slower start to the season culminated in a record-setting performance in the Big Ten Championship with six catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Bowen on the other hand was called on to step up in relief of veteran linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White, whose season was lost to a torn ACL. The young Bowen performed admirably, flashing versatility while racking up 67 tackles and two sacks along with eight and a half tackles for a loss.
The Lions will miss both players against the Trojans, but hope is not lost. Penn State features a deep young roster brimming with talent, and James Franklin will have to call the numbers of his younger players if his team is to emerge Pasadena victorious. Here are a few of those players to keep an eye out for:
LB Cam Brown
Brown, a 6-foot-5 athletic specimen, exemplifies the future of Penn State football. As a true freshman, he turned in 29 tackles, a half sack, and one and a half tackles for a loss in limited action. He’s rangy for a player of his size, and he proved he could hang with the best after a two week stretch that saw him rack up 19 tackles against Michigan and Minnesota. Though he technically backs up Brandon Bell, there’s a chance his number will be called on the opposite side, where he’ll likely split time with fellow outside backer Koa Farmer. The Lions need a linebacker who can move, and Brown’s certainly proven his worth in his debut season.
LB Koa Farmer
Farmer, the rangy athlete who began his career at returning kicks as a safety, has finally found his home at linebacker. While still learning the nuances of the position in 2016, Farmer’s worth comes in coverage thanks to his ability to cover ground. Don’t be fooled; although Farmer excels in space, he’s a thumper who’s not afraid to lay the big hit. He flashed that trait on the big stage in Indianapolis, providing the nail in Wisconsin’s coffin with a key sack on quarterback Bart Houston late in the game.
The combination of Farmer and Brown should be enough to replace Bowen, and as if Farmer’s breakout season couldn’t get better, the California native will be playing mere minutes from his home.
I’ve only dream to play 10 minutes from the house… ?#WEARE
— KOA (@KOAFARMER) December 4, 2016
WR DeAndre Thompkins
DeAndre Thompkins’ season started off red hot after proving himself to be a reliable target as a downfield threat. He excelled at capitalizing on the deep ball, posting receptions of 43, 53, and 70. At one point, he emerged as Penn State’s leading receiver, but that head-turning production tailed off toward season’s end likely due to Chris Godwin’s ability to separate himself and stand alone as a weapon in Joe Moorhead’s offense.
Blacknall, although sporadic in terms of production, was arguably the team’s best deep threat all season long. With him out, the Lions need a player of Thompkins’ caliber to step up and keep the deep ball a viable option — especially given Moorhead’s penchant to take chances in the second half. The team could turn to players like Irvin Charles and Juwan Johnson, but both remain somewhat unproven and inexperienced. Charles received a decent amount of work in the Big Ten Championship game, but disappointed with back-to-back drops against the Badgers. Both are talented players, but the Lions need an experienced weapon like Thompkins to step up and ensure the offense clicks without a hitch on Monday.
Who do you think will step up against USC in the Rose Bowl? Let us know in the comments!