It’s time for our annual eseason top 10! Each summer, the staff votes on its top 10 players ahead of the upcoming season. A first place vote is worth 10 points, second place is worth nine points, and so on. Last week, we began the countdown with Sean Clifford and Blake Gillikin tied for tenth, Steven Gonzalez at ninth, John Reid at eighth, Robert Windsor and Cam Brown tied for sixth, Tariq Castro-Fields at five, Pat Freiermuth coming in at #4, and KJ Hamler landing at #3. Full voting results will be published at a later date.
How He Got Here
It’s been pretty clear that Penn State sophomore linebacker Micah Parsons was going to be something special on the football field since he stepped onto the field as a high school freshman. His eye-popping athleticism paired with his impressive size and one heck of a mean streak made for the all making of an elite prospect.
As his high school career progressed it became clear that Parsons was going to be an elite prospect and after a fairly roundabout recruiting process, Parsons landed in Happy Valley in the 2018 recruiting class.
He immediately made an impact for the Nittany Lions, switching from defensive end to linebacker and becoming an important part of the linebacker rotation for Brent Pry from week one.
While Parsons started just one game a year ago, he regularly flashed the ability that many so sure of his impending stardom. Parsons led the team in tackles as a freshman with 83. He became the first freshman (true or redshirt) in program history to do so, a program that is (as you all know) rich in linebacker history. He was selected as freshman All-American by ESPN, The Athletic and 247Sports and named to Bruce Feldman’s college football freaks list as the seventh-biggest athletic freak in the nation heading into 2019.
What to Expect in 2019
While some may say that you should manage expectations for Parsons and that it’s unfair to compare him to prior Penn State greats, what fun would that be? Parsons himself has high expectations for 2019 and the talk coming out of the summer is how much he’s grown and developed when it comes to film study and understanding his reads.
We already know how good he is getting sideline to sideline and flowing to the ball, a Micah Parsons that doesn’t have to slow down and think about his reads is a scary, scary thing for opposing offenses.
Parsons has the opportunity to be one of the best defensive players not just in the Big Ten, but in all of college football in 2019. You’re looking at a guy who is 6-foot-3, 245 pounds who runs a 40-yard dash somewhere in the 4.5 range and hits like a truck. When it all comes together for him mentally there are very few bounds on the level of football player he can become.
The Harrisburg (PA) native has already been named to the watch list for the Bednarik Award, given annually to college football’s best defensive player. He’ll almost assuredly be named to the watch list for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker, as well when that’s released.
Parsons has already drawn comparisons to Penn State greats of the past including LaVar Arrington, whose No. 11 jersey he now wears. If he continues to develop like many expect he will, Parsons could well leave Happy Valley considered as one of the greats that Arrington has already become.