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Penn State Preseason Top 10: No. 1 Micah Parsons

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LBU lives on!

Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s time for our annual season 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. Because of a tie in voting, there is no number seven in this year’s countdown.

How He Got Here

Micah Parsons had one of the more interesting recruiting stories in recent memory. A long-time PSU fan, Micah originally wanted to commit to PSU as an underclassman while in high school, though his family managed to talk him into waiting a bit longer. Still, Parsons was eager to join the Lions, and did so after attending Junior Day way back in February 2016. Unfortunately for the Lions, the 5-star prospect was not going to be left alone just because he told the world he wanted to play in the blue and white.

Over the next few months, myriad coaches visited, and he made visits to other schools including Ohio State (multiple times), West Virginia, and Georgia over the course of the next year. He ultimately decommitted from the Lions, and it appeared the rival Buckeyes were in the driver seat to earn his commitment. That is, until OSU committed a recruiting infraction, wherein Parsons visited the set of College GameDay while officially visiting Columbus, and the Buckeyes had to back off. A few more visits to Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Georgia later, Micah officially rejoined the Lions on national signing day in December 2017. Parsons joined the Lions as a composite 5-star player, with a 0.9982 rating, the second-highest recruit to ever join PSU (since recruiting rankings have been a thing), and headlining the 2018 class that ranked #6 nationally.

Micah enrolled early in January 2018, and saw time in all 13 games as a freshman, including one start. Due to the dearth of talent at linebacker, Parsons switched from his natural defensive end position to outside linebacker, and the learning curve was certainly visible. Still, his natural athletic ability ultimately won out, and after tallying 82 tackles, four TFLs, 1.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles, Parsons was selected to the Freshman All-America Team by 247Sports, ESPN, and The Athletic, as well as picking up honorable-mention All-Big Ten accolades from the media.

In 2019, the linebacking position began to come more naturally, and by seasons’ end, Micah was a wrecking ball at the second level. He played in all 13 games, with 12 starts, and racked up 109 tackles, 14 TFLs, five sacks, five passes defended, one fumble recovery, and four forced fumbles. In particular, he showed out on the national stage against Memphis in the Cotton Bowl, where he logged 14 tackles, three TFLs, two sacks, two passes defended, and two forced fumbles.

The list of honors he received on the season is honestly astounding:

  • Consensus NCAA All-American
  • First-team All-American from seven different sources, including the AP and USA today
  • Second-team All-American from an additional six outlets
  • Won the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year in the Big Ten, the first sophomore in B1G history to win the award
  • First-team All-Big Ten from five sources, including the coaches and media
  • All-Bowl Team from three different sources
  • Named Penn State’s Most Valuable Defensive Player at the team’s awards banquet
  • Finalist for the Butkus Award
  • Semifinalist for the Bednarik Award

What to Expect in 2020

In a word: domination.

In a few more words: Parsons may very well be the best linebacker in all of college football, and truthfully may be the best defensive player in the country. He’s already been named to the Bednarik Award watch list, and should be a no-brainer to add in the Butkus Award watch list as well. All of the above accolades should be repeated without much issue.

Perhaps the biggest thing that should frighten opposing teams, and have Penn Staters salivating, is the fact that the first 15-16 games of his college career, he visibly was having to use his athleticism to make up for his lack of familiarity with playing linebacker. The last six or seven games in 2019, you could see things click for him. He was suddenly in the right spot to stop a play, rather than have to chase it down from behind. He was aggressive. He knew where he needed to be, and rather than sit back and play hesitantly, he launched himself at the point of attack as soon as the ball was snapped.

If Micah has a 2020 season like we all think he will, he will head on to the NFL, and will leave PSU as one of the all-time best linebackers to have donned the blue and white. If he sticks at linebacker, he has a chance at being a top 10 draft choice. Given his history at defensive end, it’s possible he works out for teams at both positions, and I would not be surprised in the least to see him taken as a top 5 pick, and utterly dominate at the next level as either a 4-3 defensive end, or a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Hold your breath folks, because every time Penn State is on the defensive side of the ball, Micah Parsons is going to light. it. up.