Despite the dismal start to 2020, many young Nittany Lions proved they could be on the verge of a breakout season as they helped right the ship to end the season on a four-game winning streak.
That got us to talking...which Penn State player is most likely to have a 1st-team all-conference type of season? We each gave our best guess, with one rule - no Jahan Dotson, since, well, you would just be reading the same paragraph over and over.
Here are our (non-Jahan) selections:
Eli: QB Sean Clifford
Yes, I said it. The fact of the matter is if we’re assuming Jahan is a shoo-in, the person throwing to him has a good shot too. If Clifford is a tough pill to swallow for folks, look at Jahan’s counterpart in Parker Washington. He came onto the scene and established himself as the clear alternative to Jahan, so there’s a good possibility Penn State sees its two top receivers getting the honor at the end of the season.
Clay: S Jaquan Brisker
It’s gotta be Brisker. He was coming into his own last season and this year he’ll have a capable partner back there with him. He’s a fantastic athlete at the safety position and isn’t afraid to come up and help in run support. I think there’s a good chance Brisker is one of the best safeties in the nation in 2021.
Chris L.: LB Brandon Smith
I’ll say Brandon Smith, but only with the caveats that he actually switches to Will, and Brent Pry doesn’t take him off the field on third downs. If those two caveats are met, I think Smith could easily put up First Team All-B1G numbers. When he’s allowed to just use his natural instincts and come downhill with a quickness, Smith is one of the best linebackers out there. If he’s left on the field in nickel situations, he’ll rack up a ton of stats, and could see his name called as a first teamer.
Marty: OT Rasheed Walker
I’ll go with Rasheed Walker. The former top 100 overall prospect is arguably the most talented offensive lineman that the Nittany Lions have signed during James Franklin’s tenure. There were some rumblings entering last season that with a strong showing Walker may look to go pro. While this did not happen, he still has the potential and tools necessary to be a 1st round pick in the NFL Draft. This is the season Walker puts it all together and turns into one of the best tackles in the Big Ten.
Lando: CB Tariq Castro-Fields
I’m going with Tariq Castro-Fields. He is a versatile defensive back who is not only solid in coverage, but also can tackle in the open field. Lest we forget, TCF was also named honorable mention Big Ten last year, and he only played in three games! If he comes back fully healthy, conference quarterbacks should watch out.
Jared: Brandon Smith
I’m with Chris, and think Brandon Smith is poised for a season where he becomes one of the Big Ten’s top linebackers, and possibly one of the very best in the nation. It took him a bit to find his footing in early 2020, but as the season progressed I couldn’t help but being reminded of Paul Posluszny in 2004. Each continually improved throughout the season, and by the end of the year their playmaking ability became apparent. Smith seems to be a star in the making, and should be in for a huge year in 2021.