Penn State All-American linebacker Micah Parsons has made the decision to sit out for the upcoming season. Instead, he will train for the NFL Draft. Parsons is going to be a Junior this year, making him draft eligible. He is not the first Big Ten standout to make this decision. Minnesota wide receiver, Rashod Bateman, has also decided to sit this season out and focus on training for the draft. These two are likely not the only Big Ten stars to make this decision, but only time will tell.
Micah Parsons to Sit Out; Focus on Draft
As a true freshman, Parsons moved to middle linebacker, from defensive end in high school, and amassed 82 tackles, enough to lead the team. In his sophomore season, Parsons really grew into his own. He went from a talented freshman to a more controlled, talented sophomore. Parsons forced two fumbles and recovered one. Further, he had five sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 109 tackles, and five passes defended. He was all over the field for the Nittany Lions, doing enough to earn Big Ten Linebacker of the Year. Somehow, Parsons was poised to have an even better season in 2020.
The All-American is six-foot-three, 245 pounds, and is running an unofficial 4.4-second 40-yard dash. He has been compared to former Penn State great LaVar Arrington and is viewed as the best linebacker available for the upcoming NFL Draft and likely a first-round pick. Arrington was taken in the first round, second overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. Hopefully, Parsons will have a similar fate. So, who will take over for Parsons?
Sophomore Brandon Smith is set to start at outside linebacker and was supposed to be opposite Parsons. Smith was a five-star recruit out of high school. In his 2019 true freshman season, he recorded 14 tackles and two for loss. He will need to step up in a big way in the absence of Parsons on the other side. There is likely going to be a battle for the middle linebacker position between veterans Jesse Luketa and Ellis Brooks. As a sophomore in 2019, Luketa had 24 tackles. In comparison, Brooks tallied 40 tackles in addition to three sacks and one fumble recovery. Losing Parsons to the NFL Draft and Jan Johnson and Cam Brown to graduation, both Luketa and Brooks will need to improve in 2020.
If Luketa or Brooks do not move to the outside, which young linebacker will have to step up now that Parsons is gone? Redshirt freshman, Lance Dixon, played in two games as a true freshman in 2019. He tallied three tackles. According to 247Sports Dixon was a four-star prospect out of Michigan where he played safety. He has good speed, being a former track athlete. He is good in man coverage but didn’t have many rushing the passer opportunities in high school. Dixon will have to improve that aspect this season if he plans to slip into Parsons’ position.
There is also incoming freshman Curtis Jacobs. Jacobs is a five-star outside linebacker from Maryland. The six-foot-two, 220-pounder, was likely going to be a Parsons back-up in 2020, but now he might just get a bigger role than expected depending on how summer practice goes. He does have some similarities with Parsons. Both have good ball awareness, meaning they can track the ball and know where it is at all times. This fared very well for Parsons, hopefully, it will do the same for Jacobs.