Penn State coach James Franklin on Wednesday offered a few player-status updates at key positions for the team's upcoming game at Michigan.
Franklin said that the availability of running back Devyn Ford, who left last week's game against Iowa in the first quarter, will be determined Thursday or Friday. Ford rushed just three times for two yards before freshmen Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee took over.
"As of right now, we're depending on the two young guys," Franklin said after practice.
Penn State's running backs room has been dismantled by injuries and medical conditions this year. The team's top two backs, Journey Brown and Noah Cain, are out for the season. Ford, promoted to the No. 1 back on the first drive of the season-opener at Indiana, missed most of the Iowa game.
"It makes a significant difference," Franklin said of the backfield changes. "... You know what that running back room was like before the season started, and it's changed dramatically."
At quarterback, where Penn State has not named a starter for Saturday's game, Franklin is hopeful redshirt freshman Ta'Quan Roberson returns after being unavailable with what the coach called a medical situation. Roberson began the season as the No. 3 quarterback behind Sean Clifford and Will Levis.
Franklin said that Roberson "was having a really good fall" before being sidelined. He ran the team's Sunday's developmental scrimmages and had made strides. It's unclear whether Penn State would have turned to a healthy Roberson last week after Clifford and Levis combined for four turnovers.
Micah Bowens, a true freshman from Las Vegas who arrived in the summer, had been promoted from the scout team to No. 3 quarterback the past few weeks.
"He’s got a really good feel for the position and a really good understanding and obviously he has quickness and change of direction, which we saw on his high school film," Franklin said of Bowens. "So we're excited about his future to see what he can do."
Franklin added that he expected tight end Zack Kuntz, who missed the last two games, to be available. Without Kuntz and All-American Pat Freiermuth, Penn State turned to true freshmen tight ends Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren along with starter Brenton Strange.
Franklin did not have an update on starting cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields, who has not played the past two games.
During the preseason, Franklin said he studied some of the injury issues occurring in the NFL.
"There were a lot of discussions going on that, not having the normal spring ball, not having the normal summer training, not having those things, you might see a little bit more of this," Franklin said. "I think that's part of it. ... We had some guys who were at home for periods of time when we got shut down, and they didn't have the ability to train or work out. I think it's all those factors."
Penn State visits Michigan at noon Saturday. ABC will televise.
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