STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State linebacker Manny Bowen, who started 21 games the last two years but was suspended for the final four contests of the 2017 season, has returned to the team but his role for the new season has not been determined, head coach James Franklin said Saturday.
"We didn't make it easy on him," Franklin said. "I was surprised when he said, 'I'm going to try to grind this thing out' because the easiest thing to do would have been just to transfer. We put a bunch of stipulations out and he did those stipulations.
"After that, I can't tell you what his role on the team is going to be like, to be honest with you. I have no idea."
Franklin said the main priority for Bowen, a senior, is to graduate as scheduled in December.
"I do think the plan in place was the right thing to do for Manny, and gives him the best opportunity in December for him to graduate from Penn State," he said. "Everything else is icing on the cake."
The 6-foot-1, 238-pound Bowen, who played weakside linebacker, was suspended for the Nittany Lions' Rose Bowl game at the end of the 2016 season because of an academic issue. He started the first nine games last year before his suspension for what was described as a violation of team rules. He finished fifth on the team in tackles both seasons.
The release of the Nittany Lions' 2018 training camp roster included the addition of three freshmen walk-on kickers, including Justin Tobin of Neshaminy High School, bringing the preseason competition for the jobs of kickoffs and placekicks to five players.
Special-teams coordinator Phil Galiano said the kickers will be in a rotation, with some kicking on one day and the others kicking on the next day.
"I think it's super exciting we have those guys here right now and get a chance to evaluate them," Galiano said. "Just like every position, we're going to compete in everything we do and put them in challenging situations and give them an opportunity to compete and win the job."
The only scholarship kicker is incoming freshman Jake Pinegar. Redshirt freshman Carson Landis, who played in April's Blue-White Game, is the only kicker who spent last year with the Lions.
Franklin surprised a packed media interview room when, while speaking of taking his team to play Paintball recently, he rose out of his chair, lifted his shirt and his shorts, and showed the bruises and welts on his neck, his back and the rear of his upper thigh.
"The rules were, when you got shot, you put the gun above your head and you run off the field, and no one's supposed to shoot you at that time," Franklin said. "I got shot in the first round and I was on the far end of the field. I put my gun up to run off the field and, literally, the entire team just sprayed me.