The Fiesta Bowl-bound Penn State football team flew from Harrisburg to Phoenix without a starter and key contributor on Saturday. A few days later, the Nittany Lions made it clear they’re set to move forward without them permanently.
Starting linebacker Manny Bowen and wide receiver Irvin Charles were kicked off the team for a violation for team rules, a Penn State spokesperson confirmed Tuesday afternoon. Neither Bowen nor Charles are listed on the Nittany Lions’ roster. Both have eligibility remaining.
“We appreciate their contributions to the program and wish them success in the future,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Bowen, who was suspended for the final three games of the regular season, was a known Fiesta Bowl absence. Head coach James Franklin said at Penn State’s Dec. 15 bowl media day the junior would not play against Washington when the game kicks off in Glendale, Ariz., at 4 p.m. Dec. 30.
It isn’t the first time Bowen has landed himself in trouble, either. The linebacker missed last season’s Rose Bowl — a game Penn State lost 52-49 to Southern Cal — and the Lions could’ve used his starter.
Senior Brandon Smith will replace Bowen at “Will” linebacker against the Huskies. Bowen finished his Nittany Lion career with 137 tackles in 35 appearances (21 starts).
Meanwhile, Charles is remembered for his 80-yard touchdown catch that helped save Penn State’s 2016 season, turning the tide in an overtime win over Minnesota. Outside of that, the redshirt sophomore wide receiver struggled to make an impact on offense with three career catches — and just one for four yards this season.
On special teams, Charles emerged as a weapon in 2017. He tallied seven tackles as a punt team gunner and forced a fumble that led to a Nick Scott touchdown return against Indiana.
Charles wasn’t on the sidelines and did not play in the final home game of the season against Nebraska, though. Franklin said he wasn’t available, and he would “leave it at that.”
Charles’ absence isn’t ideal with Penn State facing the nation’s top punt returner. Washington’s Dante Pettis averages an FBS-best 20.4 yards per attempt.
On the offensive side of the ball, however, Josh Gattis’ wide receiver room will be just fine. In 2018, Penn State should return return DeAndre Thompkins, Juwan Johnson and Brandon Polk. The Nittany Lions will also have redshirt freshmen KJ Hamler, Mac Hippenhammer and Cameron Sullivan-Brown at their disposal, and they inked three highly-touted wideout recruits — Justin Shorter, Jahan Dotson and Daniel George — just last week.
Bowen’s replacement next season should be sophomore Cam Brown with Koa Farmer and Jarvis Miller also returning. The Nittany Lions could feature freshmen Ellis Brooks, Brailyn Franklin and Brelin Faison-Walden.
In total, Penn State should have 11 scholarship linebackers in 2018, including five-star Harrisburg stud Micah Parsons.