Penn State Football

Penn State’s James Franklin discusses Manny Bowen, linebackers, and more

James Franklin talks linebackers

Penn State football coach James Franklin discusses linebackers and who he's seen improvement from during practice Wednesday, Aug 8, 2018 at Lasch Field.
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Penn State football coach James Franklin discusses linebackers and who he's seen improvement from during practice Wednesday, Aug 8, 2018 at Lasch Field.

Linebacker Manny Bowen wasn’t seen on the field during the portion of Penn State’s Wednesday practice open to the media, but that didn’t stop head coach James Franklin from offering the senior some praise.

“Manny is looking really, really good — which, obviously, he’s one of our most experienced, older guys ,” Franklin told reporters Wednesday night.

Bowen was kicked off the team in December following his second suspension but was welcomed back in time for Friday’s first practice, after meeting certain “stipulations” that Franklin said he required. It’s unknown what Bowen’s role will be this fall but, on Wednesday, Cam Brown and Koa Farmer ran with the first team on the outside while Jan Johnson lined up at the MIKE.

“Jan is really doing some nice things,” Franklin added. “There’s a lot of comfort with him. I would say the same thing with Cam Brown; he’s had a really good offseason and camp so far. And then there’s just a bunch of guys.

“As a young guy, Micah (Parsons), you would never know he’s never been at linebacker before. He can find the ball; he’s got a natural ability.”

Franklin didn’t mention Farmer by name but, while discussing the linebackers, he expressed concern that he might have been leaving someone out. He also mentioned true freshman Jesse Luketa “doing some really good things,” in addition to redshirt freshman Ellis Brooks impressing coaches.

Luketa the leader

The Canadian football player was one of the leaders of the 2018 recruiting class. And Franklin said that leadership hasn’t stopped.

That’s just who Luketa is, Franklin said. And to understand who he is, you have to understand where he came from.

“I think Jesse left home, I want to say, at 13 or 14 or something crazy like that to go from Canada to boarding school,” Franklin said. “I remember talking to his mom during the recruiting process. She was not for it. But, at 13 or 14 years old, he kind of put his foot down and said, ‘I’m going to chase my dream in America.’

“Think about that. ... It’s pretty amazing. So he’s a mature kid in general. He’s a pretty mature, heady kid and ... he’s done a really nice job for us.”

Menet looking good at center

Redshirt sophomore Michal Menet was a highly touted recruit who hasn’t seen much time yet, but he’s still managed to generate a lot of hype from the staff and teammates.

He’s now starting at center, with 326-pound Connor McGovern sliding over to guard. Franklin said that’s helped both players, since guard also plays to some of McGovern’s strengths.

“Michal Menet is doing extremely well,” Franklin said. “And, right now, he’s really helping us by the way he’s playing center, with a lot of confidence. He has tremendous athleticism.”

Franklin doesn’t like players walking

At one point, with Franklin facing the field, he stopped speaking to the media when he spotted some offensive players walking off the field. “Jog off the field, please!” he yelled.

When the players didn’t jog off fast enough, Franklin walked around the circle of reporters and shouted even louder. “You three wideouts go back! DeAndre (Thompkins), go back and jog off the field!”

He then walked back to the reporters, keeping a watchful eye on the players as they jogged off.

“What was I saying?”

Football ain’t soccer

Reserve quarterback Jake Zembiec, a former Elite 11 signal-caller, announced on Twitter on Tuesday night that he was forced to retire due to an “ongoing injury.”

Zembiec will remain on the team but will not play. Franklin said decisions like that are not made quickly nor lightly since football’s such a unique sport. “If you’re a soccer player, you can play some level of soccer the rest of your life, or basketball,” he said. “If you want to play football, you’re walking away. So that’s a very emotional decision.”

Still, Franklin said that Zembiec would play an important role with the team. And his role could help get him into coaching, if that’s something he’d be interested in.

“I think Jake with his role, especially with the position that he plays and the leadership that comes with that position in general, I think he’s going to do a fantastic job,” Franklin added.