There are freakish athletic beasts and then there is Micah Parsons. On the football field Parsons is big, fast, and violent. To put it in James Franklin speak, Parsons is a game wrecker on the defensive side of the ball, and he has already earned the renowned #11.
Parsons has the potential to be the type of player that an opposing offense must game plan around, something that Penn State’s defense has not had in quite a long time. Possibly going all the way back to the greatest #11 in Penn State history - LaVar Arrington.
With Parsons possessing a full toolbox and sky high ceiling the question must be asked, how should Brent Pry use Parsons on defense this fall?
The plan at the beginning of spring ball appeared to be for Parsons to play MIKE linebacker. The Nittany Lions needed a new MIKE this fall, so putting your most athletically gifted defender at the position makes sense. However, playing MIKE linebacker is a tall task to ask of any true freshman. This is especially true for one like Parsons who never played the position before.
Playing MIKE linebacker would also limit Parsons’ best skill - getting to the quarterback. Combine this with the fact that both Jan Johnson and Ellis Brooks reportedly had strong springs, and it is no surprise that Parsons was moved from MIKE to WILL by the end of spring ball.
To best utilize Parsons the Nittany Lions should give him two simple responsibilities:
1. Get to the quarterback
2. Cause havoc
The best way for Parsons to do these two things is for Penn State’s coaching staff to create the designated quarterback *murderer position for Parsons. Think of it as the defense’s version of LION.
(*Editor’s Note: BSD does NOT condone murder in the literal sense, but we do enjoy the suplexing of opposing quarterbacks)
In order to best utilize his skills while playing positions that do exist, Parsons should either continue play WILL linebacker or his natural position at defensive end. At these two positions Parsons can focus on destroying quarterbacks, blowing up plays, and making life hell for opposing offensive lines and coordinators.
Using Parsons this way can help to fix Penn State’s pass rush issues that hurt them in both losses last season. Gone will be the days of J.T. Barrett or Brian Lewerke standing in a clean pocket leading fourth quarter rallies. It doesn’t matter if it is coming off the edge as WILL, from a stand up defensive end position, or with his hand in the dirt at end, Parsons will get to the quarterback and wreak the havoc that his potential suggests he can.