Penn State is 5-0, is ranked inside the Top 10, and it literally can’t lose this week thanks to the bye. Folks, that’s a beautiful thing. Let’s savor this time because it’s about to get really messy with the Michigan-Minnesota-Ohio State stretch.
With the bye week though, it gives us time to look at some big picture topics as opposed to jumping toward previewing the next game. One of those big picture topics is something I mentioned on the Twitter machine a few weeks back: who are Penn State’s top 10 players?
We here at BSD do a Top 10 list every offseason, and for the most part, it’s usually not that hard just given the nature of college football. Players are graduating, leaving early for the NFL draft, or transferring that you are really only picking from 15-ish *proven* players. In-season though? That’s a different animal.
This is a tremendously hard list to make just because so many players are playing really well right now. You’ll see my list below, but Parker Washington, Brenton Strange, and Kaytron Allen didn’t make my list, and all three of those guys are totally deserving of being in the Top 10. I guess that’s the price we have to pay to root for a program that is 5-0. Shame.
Reminder before we get to my list: this is my list. You might disagree with it and tell me I’m wrong, but when you say that, just remember: this is my list. You are more than welcome to come up with your own list, which is different than my list.
10. WR Mitchell Tinsley
For those that were reading our preseason coverage here at BSD, they know that I was all-in on the Tinsley experience. I really liked how he looked during practice, but more than anything, I was tremendously impressed with his attitude. Fortunately for me, he hasn’t let me down after jumping on the bandwagon. He’s been extremely dependable, coming up with big catches when Penn State needed him to against Purdue and Auburn. Although his stats aren’t gaudy in what has been a run-heavy offense — Tinsley would be projected to finish with 50 catches for just 585 yards — he’s lived up to the whatever hype was bestowed upon him when he committed to Penn State on Christmas Eve.
9. LB Curtis Jacobs
I’ll be the first to admit that Curtis Jacobs isn’t quite as good as I thought he’d be. If you remember, I predicted that Jacobs would finish with over 100 tackles and 12 TFLs. Through five games, he currently has 17 tackles and 1.5 TFLs. Oops. But that says more about my dumb brain — and Abdul Carter being a thoroughbred and taking some snaps away from Jacobs — than it does about Jacob’s actual play. He’s been really good for Penn State so far, and I just hope moving forward (especially with this bye week) we see more and more of Jacobs *and* Carter together because those are the two best linebackers on the team.
8. RB Nicholas Singleton
Like I said above, both running backs deserve to be on this list. If someone had Kaytron Allen in their Top 10, I would have no arguments. My preferred cup of tea though is Nick Singleton just because of how his home run ability changes the offense. Yes, he needs to not try to cut it outside every single run. Yes, he needs to not fumble twice during the reminiscence of a literal hurricane. But folks, that Ohio and Auburn game did something to mean that I’m not willing to say on the internet.
7. OC Juice Scruggs
Finally, we get to an offensive lineman. Scruggs — after a so-so 2021 season — has really stepped his game up. Beyond just looking more fluid as far as his movements go, he’s been playing much smarter football. We’ll see just how much he’s progressed when he has to go up against stronger interior players on Michigan and Ohio State, but through five games, Penn State couldn’t have asked for much more from Scruggs.
6. CB Kalen King
The secondary has been the strongest point of any Penn State position group thus far, and Kalen King has been a big reason for that. The true sophomore has been nearly perfect through five games, and is seriously challenging Joey Porter Jr. as the best corner on the team. The next step is for King to start coming down with interceptions, but honestly, the PBUs have been just as impressive.
5. S Ji’Ayir Brown
It was a bit of a slow start to the season for Ji’Ayir Brown, who I thought really underwhelmed against Purdue. Fortunately for Penn State, Brown has turned it around in time, and has probably been in his best two performances of the season against Auburn and Northwestern in recent weeks. He continues to be a magnet for the ball, coming up with two interceptions on the young season.
4. DT PJ Mustipher
Hand up, I am biased here with PJ Mustipher. He has 16 tackles with just 0.5 TFLs, and hasn’t played to his 2021 pre-ACL capabilities. But man I love myself a 6-foot-4, 330-pound block-eating 1-Tech. Like Brown, he’s been playing better in recent weeks and I think he’ll start to get back to his old self over the next couple of weeks. Regardless, I am happy to go to war with PJ any day of the week. This dude came back for this upcoming stretch.
3. DE Chop Robinson
If you would have told that Chop Robinson only had one sack and 2.5 TFLs on the season, I could only assume that you were on crazy pills. His impact has been so much more than the box score shows. He’s getting after the passer, creating pressure situations. He’s been progressing in the run game, playing disciplined football when he calls for it. Simply put, THANK YOU MARYLAND!!!!
2. LT Olu Fashanu
Olu Fashanu is everything we all wanted Rasheed Walker to be. The kid is just an absolute franchise left tackle that every program wished they had. He’s been dominant as a pass blocker, and it turns out that the NFL folks like that a lot. Is there another step he can take as a run blocker? Absolutely. But that step we’re talking in All-B1G to All-America. That’s how good Fashanu has been.
1. CB Joey Porter Jr.
Some of the lames poo-poo’d Porter Jr. because he gave up some 6-yard slants against Charlie Jones during the Purdue game. But make no mistake about it: Porter Jr. is going to be a Top 15 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He’s been superb on the season, and with King, gives Penn State just a ridiculously talented corner back. Can’t wait for the JPJ, King, and Johnny Dixon matchup against those Ohio State wideouts.