As Penn State ramps up preparations for its Citrus Bowl matchup with Kentucky, several players face the option of entering the NFL Draft or returning to Happy Valley for their final year of eligibility.
Former Frankford and George Washington High School star Shareef Miller says he has made his decision, after talking to head coach James Franklin and defensive line coach Sean Spencer, but he won’t divulge it.
“I’m going to make my announcement after the bowl,” Miller said Friday, at Beaver Stadium, during a media availability for the game. “I talked to coach Spence, a coach I love and trust. He keeps it real with me. I met with coach Franklin and my family.”
Asked what Spencer told him, Miller said, “I can’t really say, word for word. ... It was great input.”
Running back Miles Sanders and guard Connor McGovern also seem to be leaning toward the draft. All three said they were committed to playing in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando.
“They’re my brothers,” Miller said of his teammates. “I’m playing for them. It’s always been like that. I wouldn’t do anything selfish,” such as sitting out the game.
McGovern was noncommittal about his future.
“Right now, I’m mostly focused on the game,” he said. “After, I’ll make some decisions.”
Other players with college eligibility who might test the waters are wide receiver Juwan Johnson (Glassboro) and defensive tackles Kevin Givens and Robert Windsor. It is believed all of the players who are considering the draft have applied for ratings from the College Advisory Committee, comprised of NFL personnel evaluators and directors of the league’s sanctioned scouting organizations -- National Football Scouting and BLESTO.
Franklin said he met with the players and their parents on Nov. 25, the day after Penn State concluded its regular season with a 38-3 home victory over Maryland. The players’ position coaches also participated.
“To me, it’s not about convincing them to stay,” Franklin said. “It’s, ‘Let me give you all the information that I can get, based on my resources and contacts, so that you can make an educated decision, make a great decision.’ Where I think people struggle sometimes is, they think the coach is always going to tell the guy to come back.”
“We had really good conversations. It wasn’t like, ‘We’re deciding today.’ It’s, ‘Here’s the information, let’s continue talking about this, make sure you include us in the process, so we can help and guide and be prepared.’ It impacts us as well.”
Franklin said the plan is to have all his players available for the Citrus Bowl. But he knows that with more than two weeks until the game, nothing is certain.
“It changes. It changes weekly. It changes daily,” he said. “You have the academic component that factors into this. You have the financial component that factors into this. You have the family situation that factors into this as well. What I always try to tell our guys is, ‘Why would you ever declare early in the process?’