Losing Indiana blue-chip linebacker Josh Barajas to Notre Dame a few weeks ago was a blow to Penn State's 2015 football recruiting class, but James Franklin and his staff bounced back with a pledge who will do a lot to ease the pain on Saturday.
Manny Bowen, a 6-foot-2, 208-pound linebacker from Barnegat High School in New Jersey announced via Twitter that he had become the 17th rising prep senior to accept a scholarship offer from the Nittany Lions.
"Replace is not the right word for Bowen as it relates to Josh Barajas, who recently decommitted, because every kid brings something different to the table. At the same time, Bowen is a piece to the class of 2015 recruiting picture at a much needed position, outside linebacker, which the Lions definitely needed to fill," said Greg Pickel, who handles Penn State recruiting for FightOnState.com.
In addition to outside linebacker, Pickel said Bowen could fit in at the "Star" position, a hybrid linebacker-safety similar to the "Hero" used by Penn State under Joe Paterno.
"Manny Bowen was always near the top of Penn State's board, and the reason is simple: he can play in space, and he can run downhill," Pickel said. "Bowen can hit and run with the best, which should fit nicely into Penn State's scheme."
Bowen is rated a four-star recruit by ESPN, but most recruiting services have him with a high three-star rating. His list of scholarship offers, though, is elite. More than 30 colleges have extended invitations for Bowen to join their program, including Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Miami, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
"You are talking about the hottest recruit in New Jersey. That's what everybody says, right now," Barnegat coach Robert Davis recently told NJ.com. He plays wide receiver and kick returner for us, too, but he's being recruited as an outside linebacker. So we're excited about him."
Bowen led Barnegat to a 10-2 season and its first-ever trip to the sectional finals. He was the New Jersey Class B South Defensive Player of the Year, racking up 78 tackles, including 18 for loss, to go along with 2 1/2 sacks, 22 quarterback pressures, four interceptions and five forced fumbles. He recovered three fumbles, returning one for a touchdown.
Bowen's commitment tied a bow on a big recruiting weekend for the Nittany Lions. On Saturday, they hosted a barbeque for players that have committed or those they are pursuing, along with some top underclassmen.
Defensive tackles Christian Wilkins of Connecticut and Tim Settle of Virginia and Philadelphia cornerback John Reid were among the top-rated uncommitted 2015 prospects that were on hand. The group also included 2016 quarterback Jake Zembiec from Rochester and Philadelphia running back D'Andre Swift, who is on track to be one of the top recruits in the country in 2017.
"The Lions were able to again use a summer gathering, like they did with Bill O'Brien last summer, to generate momentum and gain a commitment at a position of need." Pickel said. "The event will absolutely become yearly, and it's something that many programs have had but Penn State never did. Now that it does, Penn State can begin to realize the momentum, and possibly a commitment as it did (on Saturday), such events bring about at a time of year when the recruiting calendar is usually fairly dull."