If you followed our recent top 10 player countdown, you probably saw the top three coming from a mile away. You can make an easy argument that Pat Freiermuth is the nation’s best tight end and that Micah Parsons is the top overall player on the defensive side of the field, while Journey Brown has emerged as the next standout at running back under James Franklin.
But who else is set to have a banner year for the Nittany Lions and be among the Big Ten’s very finest? There are plenty of candidates throughout the roster, and here are our selections:
Lando: WR Jahan Dotson
I’ll go with the player that needs to be very productive (in my opinion) in order for Penn State to take the next step: Jahan Dotson.
Dotson is clearly Penn State’s top wideout and will continue to be a leader in the receiving room in 2020. He took a step forward as a sophomore in 2019 with just under 500 yards on 27 receptions. His No. 5 ranking in the Big Ten in yards per reception shows his ability to stretch short throws to big gains, which will be critical to the Nittany Lions’ success this season. Given the increased attention on Free Moose, and the production of the LawnBoyz, Dotson will need to be even better this year, and that’s why he is my selection to be first-team All-Big Ten.
Dylan: C Michal Menet
It’s felt like Michal Menet has been at Penn State forever now but at the same time it’s hard to believe he’s entering his redshirt senior season. After earning honorable mentions last season, I think Menet could be in for a big final year in Happy Valley and has first team All-Big Ten in his reach. He’s as reliable as they come for the Nittany Lions on the offensive line in recent memory and 2020 could be a special season for the Exeter product.
Marty: LT Rasheed Walker
Walker has a higher ceiling than any other offensive lineman that has signed with Penn State during James Franklin’s tenure. The former top-100 prospect could have easily been ranked as a five-star player, and it showed in 2019. As a redshirt freshman, Walker started all 13 games at left tackle for a top-10 team that won 11 games including a New Year’s Six Bowl.
As a redshirt freshman, Walker showed terrific footwork, a nastiness in run blocking and he was good in pass blocking. At no point did Walker look like a first-year starter at left tackle. Walker has the potential to work his way into being a top 2-3 round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft with a good season this fall. It would not be a surprise at all to see him earn all-conference honors.
Cari: G C.J. Thorpe
I don’t really have a good reason besides a gut feeling, his nasty streak on the field, and good PSU genes.
Jared: DE Shaka Toney
I’ve really enjoyed watching Toney’s development since he started playing as a redshirt freshman in 2017. He came in kind of raw, with his game built around speed. But over the years, he’s developed so much more than that lightening-quick first step. He’s become a complete defensive end who can stay on the field in all situations, and should have a long career of playing on Sundays after this season. He seems ready to take the next step and become one of the best defensive ends in the Big Ten.
Chris L.: LB Brandon Smith
The focus at linebacker this year will be Micah Parsons, for obvious reasons, but his counterpart at OLB is a beast in his own right. With Cam Brown departing, Smith will take over as starter as a true sophomore. Opposing offenses will (smartly) game plan away from Parsons (not that it will matter), meaning they’ll push the ball towards Brandon more often. I understand the notion of “lesser of two evils” but dang, this is one bad man. Expect to see a huge jump in Smith’s stats, and if he can hold down his side of the field, the Penn State defense will be suffocating.
Now who is your pick, dear BSD readers?