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Seven draft-eligible Penn State players say they will play in the Peach Bowl [updated]

STATE COLLEGE — Seven Penn State players who could opt out of the Peach Bowl said Friday they plan to play against Ole Miss on Dec. 30 in Atlanta.

Defensive end Adisa Isaac, tight ends Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren, linebacker Curtis Jacobs, cornerback and punt returner Daequan Hardy, defensive tackle Dvon Ellies and center Hunter Nourzad all committed to playing in the bowl game.

“I’m a captain,” said Isaac, who ranks second in the Big Ten in sacks. “I feel like this was the best decision for me. I started with this team from the jump. It’s something we gotta finish. No matter if we didn’t go to the championship (College Football Playoff) or not, I feel like it’s deeper than that.

“It’s a brotherhood here. It wouldn’t sit right for me to just leave a team, leave my brothers like that.”

Left tackle Olu Fashanu, a consensus first-team All-American, was not as certain as Isaac and the others. Fashanu, who’s projected to be a top 10 NFL draft pick next spring, would not say whether he will play in the Peach Bowl or whether he will declare for the draft.

He said he will travel to Atlanta for the game.

“There are going to be a lot of factors,” Fashanu said. “I’m a captain. No matter what decision I make, I made a commitment to this team to the end of the season and the season’s still not over yet.

“If I’m being honest, I haven’t given it much thought (about the bowl game or the draft). I’m enjoying these moments with all my guys, just enjoying all my time here at Penn State.”

Johnson, who had another year of eligibility left, declared for the 2024 NFL draft last week. Jacobs declared for the draft later Friday.  Nourzad has no eligibility remaining,  Isaac, Warren, Hardy and Ellies said they have not yet decided whether they will return to Penn State or turn pro.

“I just want to finish things out right,” Jacobs said Friday morning. “I just want to finish out with my brothers. We started this thing. It’s what I’ve seen since I’ve been here. Guys like KJ (Hamler), all those guys who played in bowl games and increased their (draft) stock because of it.

“It’s a little stressful. I didn’t know it got like this. I thought it would be fun.”

Cornerbacks Kalen King and Johnny Dixon, wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith, guard Sal Wormley and offensive tackle Caedan Wallace were not available for interviews Friday. They are draft eligible.

All-Big Ten first-team defensive end Chop Robinson opted out of the Peach Bowl and declared for the draft earlier this month.

“Regardless if I was leaving or what, I knew I was going to play in the game,” Johnson said. “We just have a culture at Penn State of guys finishing out the season. Obviously different guys make different decisions, but I think more times than not, guys decide they’re going to stay.

“Being a captain, I thought that was important for me and a promise I wanted to make to Coach (James) Franklin.”

Coaching search: Franklin was asked when he would like to hire a defensive coordinator to replace Manny Diaz, who left last week to become head coach at Duke.

“Yesterday,” Franklin said before the question was completed.

Anthony Poindexter, Penn State’s safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator, and defensive analyst Robb Smith will call the defense at the Peach Bowl.

Poindexter called the defensive signals two years ago at the Outback Bowl against Arkansas after former Lions defensive coordinator Brent Pry left to become head coach at Virginia Tech.

Franklin described the qualities he’s seeking in the next defensive coordinator.

“I think most importantly you’re looking for a fit,” he said. “You’re looking for a fit with our players. You’re looking for a fit with the staff, a fit in the community.

“If somebody had head coaching experience, I think there’s value in that. I think Manny’s time as a head coach was valuable. (Special teams coordinator) Stacy Collins’ time as a head coach has value. I don’t think that’s the end-all, be-all, but it’d be helpful if we can find it.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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