Assessing Penn State’s Front Seven Following Tuesday’s Medical Retirements
“Both of those guys, they’ve been class acts in every aspect of our program,” head coach James Franklin said. “I think they’re going to continue to be very involved with the program.”
Buchholz, who tallied six starts for the Nittany Lions in 2017, left the sport due to chronic back pain and injuries, while Miner, who just arrived for his first season in Happy Valley, was diagnosed with a heart condition that will prevent him from seeing the field in the Blue and White.
“Having a guy like Buch that was a starter for us, leadership is what we’ll miss,” said redshirt junior defensive end Shareef Miller. “I was really close with Buch, so seeing him in that situation is tough. I feel for him, but I know he’s going to be fine.”
With Buchholz out, Franklin named returning impact players Miller, Torrence Brown, and Shaka Toney, and Yetur Gross-Matos, as well as incoming freshman Jayson Oweh as guys he was looking at to step up and fill the void at end.
“Obviously, we’d love to have Buch, because he’s been a very productive player, a great teammate, but it’s not like this came out of nowhere,” Franklin said. “But I think we have a lot of guys who still make us feel good about what we have.”
While Brown is still trying to recover from a season-ending knee injury he suffered against Georgia State in 2017 and will not be ready for the opener, Miller was a Third Team All-Big Ten selection this past season in 12 starts last season. Pairing Miller with a fellow Philly-native in Toney could be interesting, as Shaka has made a lot of noise in the weight room this offseason according to Franklin.
“It’s funny because everyone talks about him in the pass game and questions him in the run game because he isn’t the biggest guy, but Shaka’s really powerful,” Franklin said.
Beyond the trenches, Franklin added a bit more clarity to the battle for reps at the linebacker positions, while adding that the staff has not come close to making any decisions yet on the starting group.
“As far as guys that are making some moves right now, I think Cam Brown looks really good,” Franklin said. “Jan Johnson and Koa Farmer look good. I think that Jesse Luketa is making a move, Jarvis (Miller) is finally getting comfortable at the position and playing to his strengths, and obviously Micah is doing some pretty impressive things. We’ve got a good group, they just need to mature and gain some experience.”
One returning Nittany Lion with a lot of experience at linebacker is Manny Bowen, who was recently reinstated to the team on Aug. 4 following his dismissal last December. Franklin didn’t want to initially answer questions regarding Bowen’s chances of starting week one, but eventually said that he wouldn’t.
“We try to factor in all these things when we bring guys back, such as is this the right thing for Manny?” Franklin said. “Is this the right thing for Penn State? Our locker room? Our program? The guy is six months away from graduating, and I think that factors in a little bit. I try to take all that information and make the best decision.”
Miller noted that Bowen looked “the same” this fall compared to his past seasons, when Bowen has been able to account for 137 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks in 21 career starts.
“It’s great to have Manny Bowen back,” Miller said.
Penn State opens its 2018 season against Appalachian State on Sept. 1 at Beaver Stadium.
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