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James Franklin offers updates on Penn State LB Manny Bowen, WR Irvin Charles

| Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, 8:09 p.m.
Penn State's Tyrell Chaviscelebrates after he sacked Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee during the second half of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., Saturday, Nov.18, 2017. Penn State won 56-44.
Penn State's Tyrell Chaviscelebrates after he sacked Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee during the second half of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., Saturday, Nov.18, 2017. Penn State won 56-44.
Penn State quarterback Tommy Stevens  celebrates with Alex Hoenstine (83) after Hoenstine's touchdown in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Nebraska, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in State College, Pa.
York Daily Record
Penn State quarterback Tommy Stevens celebrates with Alex Hoenstine (83) after Hoenstine's touchdown in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Nebraska, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in State College, Pa.

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State linebacker Manny Bowen is "not available" for the third straight week, while wideout/punt-team gunner Irvin Charles — who missed the Nebraska game — is a "gametime" decision for Saturday, Nittany Lions coach James Franklin announced Tuesday.

Charles' absence isn't nearly as concerning as Bowen's. Charles has one catch and seven tackles. Bowen's 51 tackles still rank third on the team.

The junior linebacker missed Penn State's 35-6 win over Rutgers because of "a violation of team rules" and didn't play against Nebraska, either. Senior Brandon Smith started in Bowen's place both weeks — racking up 10 and 13 tackles against the Scarlet Knights and Cornhuskers, respectively.

But sophomore Cam Brown could get more run at the position this weekend.

The 6-foot-5 Brown, who's worked more freely at the "Sam" linebacker spot in the past, started practicing at "Will" — Bowen's position — during the Rutgers' week practice. That coincides with Bowen's suspension.

Franklin also touted backups Jarvis Miller, Jake Cooper and Jan Johnson, though they have played little.

Given his positive play, expect that Smith starts in Bowen's place on Saturday — but Brown should see time at both Will and Sam, like he did against Nebraska. He's listed as the second-stringer at both positions.

Brown welcomed the challenge Tuesday on a conference call.

"You never turn down an opportunity," the sophomore said.

Apke's absence

For the first time this season, Marcus Allen won't have his "road dog" beside him starting at safety.

Mt. Lebanon graduate Troy Apke is set to miss the first half of the game Saturday because of a fourth-quarter targeting call against Nebraska. Apke, an underrated piece to the Nittany Lion defense, has 50 tackles (tied for fourth on the team) and started all 10 games alongside Allen so far this season.

In Apke's first-half absence, Allen said he's "going to play my heart out for him."

"Oh man that's a big one. That hurt me a little bit," Allen said. "He's a senior, and he would love to play the full game for his last (regular season) game. That's just going to make me go harder for my boy, 'Trap.'"

Are two quarterbacks better than one?

While promising sophomore Tommy Stevens is pushing for more playing time, he seems content to do it in unique ways — often as a runner and receiver.

Junior Trace McSorley, after all, is the Big Ten's leading passer at 272 yards per game. He's hitting on 65.2 percent of throws with 24 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.

"Trace probably doesn't have one thing that blows you away, but he does everything well, and he's worked really hard to refine and get better at his craft," Franklin said.

Though a quarterback first, Stevens has eight receptions for 117 yards and two touchdowns. He's also run the ball 15 times for 77 yards and another score.

He's thrown only 20 passes in limited action.

"It's not like he's happy being the backup, but his relationship with Trace is really good," Franklin said. "When he gets his reps, he maximizes his reps. His relationship with Coach (Joe) Moorhead is really good. One of the things I did a few months ago was I showed Tommy examples of all these rally good college players who waited their turn and took advantage of it when the time came.

"And he's going to be ready when he gets his reps and opportunities."

Quotable

"I want them to understand what Thanksgivings are like at the Franklins. I don't want them to come dressed up and formal. It is sleep, it is eat, it is watch football, fall asleep on the couch, play ping-pong, board games, pool, eat, sleep, rotate the rest of the day. I'm hoping that they'll come and slobber on my couch and eat turkey and just chill because to me it's just about family and about spending quality time with each other and taking a time to be thankful for all the blessings that we do have." — Franklin, on hosting four Nittany Lions and their families for Thanksgiving

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