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Penn State Football Seeing Fewer Opt-Outs Ahead Of Rose Bowl

Ahead of the 2022 Outback Bowl, Penn State football was in a state of flux. Six starters announced their decision to forgo the postseason, leaving the Nittany Lions calling the names of numerous inexperienced backups.

With this year’s bowl season looming, it appears that was more of an anomaly than a trend.

So far, only cornerback Joey Porter Jr. and wide receiver Parker Washington have opted out — and Washington suffered a season-ending injury in November, making the announcement relatively moot. While head coach James Franklin held customary conversations with players, it doesn’t sound like many more opt-outs are coming, if any.

“This is who we’ve been,” Franklin said at Friday’s Rose Bowl media day. “In my 12 years as a head coach, I’ve never had an opt-out until last year.”

“The way we’ve built it at Penn State, there’s really no reason to opt out,” Franklin continued.

Senior center Juice Scruggs thinks the lack of opt-outs this bowl season is an indication of the selflessness many players on the team possess.

“It definitely just shows where the culture’s at right now,” Scruggs said. “Just shows that guys [are] willing to put the team first and not worry about other stuff that’s gonna go on after the bowl.”

Several potential opt-out candidates made their decisions clear on Friday. Among them was senior wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley, who said the Rose Bowl’s prestige wasn’t the deciding factor.

“I was playing regardless,” Tinsley said. “Just to play one more game with this team, with this coaching staff — it’s gonna mean a lot to me.”

Fifth-year senior PJ Mustipher agreed, saying he planned to play in whichever bowl the Nittany Lions drew.

“This team has worked too hard for me to leave at this point, so I’m gonna finish the thing off,” Mustipher said. “It’s just one of them opportunities that you can’t pass up… I mean, there’s no point of you working hard if you don’t want to be in one of these opportunities.”

Not every player entered the postseason with the same certainty. Senior safety Ji’Ayir Brown said he was “50-50” on whether or not he’d stay for the bowl. That is, before the Nittany Lions’ Rose Bowl bid was announced.

Brown, who is projected to be drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft, said he spoke with his family and Franklin multiple times before ultimately choosing to play.

“Regardless of what he wants or what I want, there’s gonna be honest feedback,” Brown said. “He’s not going to put his own beliefs over what he thinks is right. He’s gonna give me a straight shot on all of the pros and all the cons.”

As for those who choose to forgo the postseason, Penn State’s players seem not to harbor disappointment about teammates’ decisions. Offensive lineman Sal Wormley said while it’s relieving when teammates return, it’s easy to remain positive.

“When they leave, in my head, I just support them for doing what’s best for them,” Wormley said. “People got their own goals. People got things that they want to do. So whether they leave, stay, I’m just here 100% [to] support them, and I’m happy for whatever decision they choose.”

Penn State’s roster may be almost fully loaded for the Rose Bowl, with Franklin remaining optimistic that injured playmakers like Olu Fashanu, Caedan Wallace, and Keyvone Lee will be available. On the other hand, Utah has already seen two opt-outs, including the team’s leading receiver, Dalton Kincaid.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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