Penn State’s Options To Replace Manny Bowen, Irvin Charles
Penn State dismissed junior outside linebacker Manny Bowen and redshirt sophomore receiver Irvin Charles Tuesday due to a violation of team rules.
The Nittany Lions’ showdown against Washington in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday is fast approaching, but it’s not too early to guess who will step into their shoes next season.
Depth at linebacker was already a concern for defensive coordinator Brent Pry, as Jason Cabinda and Brandon Smith — Bowen’s replacement when he was suspended again this year — have both used up their eligibility.
Rising junior Cam Brown seems like the logical choice to fill Bowen’s role as the starting Will linebacker in 2018. After being thrust into action as a true freshman when the Nittany Lions were going through an unprecedented amount of injuries at the position, Brown had a chance to learn on the fly, making his first two starts against Minnesota and Maryland.
The Burtonsville, Md., native has outstanding length at 6-foot-5, plus the speed to play sideline to sideline. It’s not hard to see him lining up alongside Koa Farmer next season, but it’s unclear whether Farmer will stay outside at Sam or move to the Mike in a pinch.
Pry anticipates an all-hands-on-deck competition in the middle, with hardly any options off the table.
“We’re fortunate we’ve signed three guys at the position that will come in early as well as the guys currently in the unit,” Pry said of incoming freshmen Micah Parsons, Jesse Luketa, and Nick Tarburton.
Pry also mentioned Brown and rising redshirt freshman Ellis Brooks as guys who will have an opportunity to compete for the job during spring practice. Walk-on Jan Johnson has a chance to see the field more frequently next year as well.
“He is a physical player. He is a very good tackler,” Pry said of Brooks. “So there’s qualities of Ellis that remind me of Jason, which is obviously a positive. And we’ve seen that through this redshirt year.”
As for the candidates to replace Charles, a guy like rising redshirt sophomore Dae’lun Darien seems to be a good fit. Another 6-foot-4 receiver who isn’t afraid to block well downfield, Darien could potentially fill Charles’ role at gunner on special teams coverage.
The Nittany Lions have an absolute stockpile of talent at receiver despite Charles’ departure and the graduations of DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall. Juwan Johnson will again start at the X spot, but five-star signee Justin Shorter could easily make a case for early playing time.
Losing talented players like Bowen and Charles certainly hurts, but Penn State is well equipped to handle the situation. Saturday’s game against the Huskies offers an early opportunity to get a glimpse at their potential replacements.