Manny Bowen isn’t the only Penn State player who didn’t make the trip out west with the Nittany Lions.
Sophomore wide receiver Irvin Charles is also not with the team for Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl matchup with Washington. Neither Bowen, a junior linebacker, nor Charles will be with the program going forward because of a violation of team rules, according to Penn State.
“We appreciate their contributions to the program and wish them success in the future,” the team said in a statement.
Both players had been removed from the team roster as of Tuesday, prompting questions about their status. Lions247 first reported that Charles did not travel following the team’s afternoon practice.
Bowen’s departure felt all but inevitable as he was suspended for the final three games of the regular season and Lions coach James Franklin had already announced he would also miss the Fiesta Bowl — his second bowl game absence after missing last January’s Rose Bowl on a different suspension.
Earlier this month, Franklin didn’t elaborate whether Bowen, a starter for much of the past two seasons, would return in the future. This just made it official that he wouldn’t be around for his senior season in 2018.
Charles had also missed the Nebraska game in November, though Franklin didn’t say whether it was because of an injury or for disciplinary reasons. Charles returned to the field a week later against Maryland.
Franklin had offered strong praise of Charles’ skill a year ago, saying that he had as much talent as any other receiver he had coached. But outside of solid work as a gunner on special teams, it didn’t manifest itself on the field.
His 80-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown against Minnesota in 2016 was the catalyst for a comeback victory that was the first of nine straight victories for the Lions en route to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance.
But he had just two other catches in his career and only one this season for 4 yards.
Had he returned, Charles would have likely remained a backup option on offense with Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins in line to start on the the outside.
Bowen will be the tougher man to replace next season. Though Brandon Smith has filled in well for him at the weak-side spot the past three games, both Smith and middle linebacker Jason Cabinda will be graduating.
With Bowen gone as well, that leaves a big hole at both box linebacker positions with Koa Farmer still set to return on the strong side.
Franklin’s declaration that five-star recruit Micah Parsons would start his college career at middle linebacker instead of defensive end was a hint that Bowen wasn’t likely to return.
The Lions also have options like Jake Cooper, redshirting freshman Ellis Brooks and walk-on Jan Johnson in the middle. Cam Brown would be a favorite to play the weak-side in 2018, though the situation is very fluid.
Penn State kicks off against Washington at 4 p.m. Saturday.