James Franklin and his staff “didn’t make it easy” for Manny Bowen to return to the Penn State program. But 23 days after being reinstated, the talented linebacker ended his tumultuous tenure as a Nittany Lion, walking away from the team.
Bowen’s teammate, Cam Brown, said Tuesday morning that the senior “went ahead and made the decision to focus on school” last week. Later in the day, Bowen released a statement.
“After long thought and consideration I will not be returning to the football program for this upcoming season,” Bowen said in a statement on Twitter. “Ultimately I have decided that it is best for me to focus on academics full time this semester to accomplish graduating and receiving my degree. I want to thank my teammates, Coach Franklin and his staff for all their support. ...Finishing here with a Penn State degree is going to mean a lot to me. I will be working hard to achieve my goals as well as searching for the next best opportunity for me.”
Added Franklin: “We love Manny. We want nothing but success for him in his future. And I think Manny has a very, very bright future. But for us, we had been kind of working with this anyway. There’s a lot of details of this matter that you guys aren’t aware of. But it really hadn’t changed a whole lot for us at this point in the season.”
Bowen returned to the Nittany Lions’ roster in early August following suspensions in back-to-back seasons. He missed Penn State’s Rose Bowl loss, was suspended for the final three regular-season games of the 2017 season and was kicked off the team days prior to December’s Fiesta Bowl win against Washington.
No specific reasons were given for either suspension or Bowen’s dismissal.
Franklin announced at Penn State media day on Aug. 4 that, after creating “stipulations for Manny to achieve,” Bowen earned his way back into the coaching staff’s graces and nabbed a roster spot.
The return of Bowen excited his teammates and fans alike. Senior leader Koa Farmer called Bowen “one of our brothers,” while the Nittany Lion faithful expected Bowen to take over at middle linebacker from the get-go. Franklin tempered those expectations a couple weeks ago, saying that the linebacker would not start Week 1 against Appalachian State.
Now, it appears he won’t ever play for the Nittany Lions.
Instead, Penn State’s starters against the Mountaineers are Jan Johnson at MIKE, with Farmer and Brown manning the SAM and WILL, respectively.
As far as depth goes, true freshmen Micah Parsons and Jesse Luketa will have a role. Parsons, the highest-ranked recruit since Derrick Williams in 2005, is Farmer’s backup. Meanwhile, Luketa — a former four-star prospect — is third at MIKE, behind Johnson and redshirt freshman Ellis Brooks.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of those guys,” Franklin said. “I don’t think there’s a huge gap between our one’s and our two’s. ...I think Micah’s making a strong push there.”
The Nittany Lions kick off its 2018 campaign against Appalachian State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.