I think it was sometime in early July that the rumors of Manny Bowen's return first picked up momentum. James Franklin didn't do anything to slow the talk when asked about it later in the month during Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. His return was finally confirmed on Saturday during Penn State's Media Day festivities.
The obvious answer to the question posted in this article's headline is it means the Nittany Lions have a linebacker with three years of experience and 21 career starts. Given the precarious situation at linebacker, just having an experienced body to add to the depth chart is huge. He joins Koa Farmer, Cam Brown, Jake Cooper, and Jan Johnson as players with at least some semblance of experience at the position. Only Farmer, however, can rival his snaps.
Brent Pry was non-committal on Saturday with Bowen's role going forward, but as long as the senior stays in the staff's good graces, and shows the same ability he had prior to leaving the team, it would seem to be a safe bet he finds his way into the rotation sooner rather than later. Given his experience and size, not to mention the Lions' glaring need, he might be an ideal candidate to take over in the middle. That would allow players like Cam Brown, Jesse Luketa, and Micah Parsons to take on a less burdensome role outside along with Farmer. A starting lineup of Farmer, Bowen, and any of those three is a lot more comforting than any combination without Bowen.
Make no mistake, Bowen is not a savior here. He's a solid player with those three years of experience, but very few of those snaps came in the middle, and he has also been away from the team since November of last year. Fall camp will give him an opportunity to get back up to speed, but I would advise caution with how much to expect from him, especially early on. Nonetheless, the linebacker situation is much better today than it was at this time a week ago.