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Penn State Football: Last Call at the Citrus Bowl; Which Lions are Leaving?

by on December 27, 2018 8:00 PM

It will be last call for Penn State football for at least 11 players on the Nittany Lions’ official three-deep depth chart heading into their Citrus Bowl game against Kentucky.

That’s how many starters and key reserves will exhaust their eligibility against the Wildcats on Tuesday in Orlando.

That group is led by such stalwarts as quarterback Trace McSorley — making his record-tying 40th career start for Penn State — receiver/punt returner DeAndre Thompkins and defenders Amani Oruwariye, Nick Scott and Koa Farmer. (A full list is below.)

But, they won’t be the only ones saying good-bye.

Expect at least one or two players with eligibility remaining to announce they are turning pro, and figure a few more — some on the three-deep, others not — to indicate they are transferring.

An over/under of 7.5 for the total number of still-eligible Nittany Lions — up-and-down the roster, on the three-deep and beyond — leaving the program after the Citrus Bowl sounds about right. (That does not include Isaiah Humphries and Brelin Faison-Walden, who have already announced their plans to transfer.)

When the final whistle blows at about 4:30 on Tuesday afternoon, a large and impressive total of 19 Penn State players on the three-deep chart will begin the 2019 calendar year with a single year of college eligibility remaining.

Of that group, 15 will be entering their fifth year at Penn State and four more will be in Year 4. And of those 15, eight already have their Penn State undergraduate degrees — Ryan Bates, Jan Johnson, Juwan Johnson, Steven Gonzalez, Jarvis Miller, Tommy Stevens, Garrett Taylor and Rob Windsor.

That not only means they are good and dedicated students, it also allows them to transfer to another school as grad students and play immediately. Not to say any of them will. But they could.

Of course, they could also opt to declare for the NFL Draft — if they haven’t already done so.

Two weeks ago, I spoke with a full-time scout with an NFL team and among the players who had eligibility remaining, he was most interested in running back Miles Sanders, defensive end Shareef Miller, offensive lineman Connor McGovern and Windsor, a defensive tackle.

Sanders is the most likely to turn pro. He ran for 1,223 yards with a 5.9-yard average in 2018, and lost four fumbles, which wouldn’t impact his draft stock. As a freshman, he averaged 20.8 yards on 33 kickoff returns. Sander has not revealed what he will do, while Miller (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) has indicated that he has made up his mind — but has not shared the news publicly.

McGovern, a three-year starter and nicely-sized at 6-5 and 323, may be among the most NFL-ready among all the Penn State players who have eligibility remaining. Windsor (6-4, 295) is riding a bit of a high, having recorded five tackles for a loss and five sacks in the regular season’s final three games.

Had cornerback John Reid not missed all of 2017 following knee surgery and been a bit slow coming back, he would have likely opted for the NFL draft. Same goes for Juwan Johnson, who struggled with injuries and whatnot in 2018, grabbing just 23 catches this season compared to his 2017 output of 54 receptions for 701 yards. Johnson will be sure to get wise counsel, though; his brother, George, spent eight seasons in the NFL at defensive end.

After the bowl game, several players will be sure to reveal their immediate intentions. Still, there are two key dates to keep in mind:

Monday, January 7 — Penn State officially begins classes on this day, so if any of the aforementioned players opt to turn pro or transfer, they will very likely not be registered for classes.

Monday, January 14 — Underclassmen have until that day to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft, which will be held April 25-27 in Nashville, Tenn. A list of players accepted into the draft will be sent to NFL clubs on January 18. (The NFL rules specifically state “underclassmen have until seven days following the NCAA National Championship Game to declare their intentions to do so.” The title game is on January 7.)


Here is where the Nittany Lions stand with eligibility following the Citrus Bowl; only players listed on the current three-deep roster who are in at least their second year of eligibility are included. Looking ahead, standout defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, who will be a true junior in 2019, will be eligible for the NFL Draft this time next year. 

LAST GAME (11): Mark Allen (RB), Jake Cooper (LB), Koa Farmer (LB), Sterling Jenkins (OT), Trace McSorley (QB), Amani Oruwariye (CB), Nick Scott (S), Johnathan Thomas (RB), DeAndre Thompkins (WR/PR), Kyle Vasey (LS), Chasz Wright (OL).

1 YEAR ELIGIBILITY — FIFTH YEAR in 2019 (15): Ryan Bates (OL), Nick Bowers (TE), Kevin Givens (DL), Steven Gonzalez (OL), Jonathan Holland (TE), Jan Johnson (LB), Juwan Johnson (WR), Jarvis Miller (LB), Shareef Miller (DE), Ayron Monroe (S), Brandon Polk (WR), John Reid (CB), Tommy Stevens (QB), Garrett Taylor (S), Robert Windsor (DT).

1 YEAR ELIGIBILITY — FOURTH YEAR in 2019 (4): Cam Brown (LB), Blake Gillikin (P), Connor McGovern (OL), Miles Sanders (RB).

2 YEARS ELIGIBILITY — FOURTH YEAR in 2019 (7): Danny Dalton (TE), Will Fries (OL), Alex Gellerstadt (OL), Daniel Joseph (DE), Zech McPhearson (CB), Michael Menet (OL), Antonio Shelton (DT), Shane Simmons (DE), Shaka Toney (DE).

2 YEARS ELIGIBILITY — THIRD YEAR in 2019 (3): Tariq Castro-Fields (CB), Yetur Gross-Matos (DE), Lamont Wade (S).

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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