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Micah Parsons, Justin Shorter Show Glimpses Of Penn State Football’s Promising Future At Citrus Bowl

A lot of focus was on the past before, during, and after Tuesday’s Citrus Bowl game between Penn State and Kentucky.

The game was the final one of a senior class which, led by three-year starting quarterback Trace McSorley, helped put Penn State back on the map in the world of college football. The fact that people spent time reflecting on McSorley’s career today is obviously understandable, as you can make a serious argument that he’s the greatest quarterback in Penn State’s storied football history.

With that being said, Micah Parsons and Justin Shorter — two former five-star recruits who could be crucial parts of Penn State’s future — both showed their sky-high potential during the 27-24 loss to Kentucky.

Shorter had a much more modest statline than Parsons did — he made just two catches for 17 yards — but the improvements he made in the month leading up to Tuesday’s bowl game didn’t go unnoticed.

“The month Justin Shorter had, in my mind, was the best month I’ve seen from any of [Penn State’s freshmen],” McSorley said at his post-game press conference. “He grew leaps and bounds in that last month.”

Shorter is part of a deep group of receivers which includes the speedy KJ Hamler, fellow freshman Jahan Dotson, and Juwan Johnson — who had a down year but is clearly talented enough to produce at a high level. The fact that Ricky Rahne didn’t utilize Shorter all that much this season has its benefits — thanks to a new NCAA rule, he’s eligible to receive a redshirt because he didn’t play in four games.

Meanwhile, Micah Parsons made his mark as one of Penn State’s best linebackers in his true freshman year. Parsons only got a starting nod in one game, but he finished the year with the Nittany Lions’ lead in terms of tackling with 82 stops. His recruitment was, to put it lightly, a whirlwind, but it was definitely all worth it based on how productive he was this year.

“It’s crazy — he improved tremendously,” defensive end Shareef Miller said of Parsons. “He’s a great player, man. He’s going to be one of the best linebackers in the country next year. And he’s only getting better, too — I’m definitely excited for his future.”

The attributes that make Parsons such a great player were on full display during Tuesday’s Citrus Bowl. He led Penn State with a career-high 13 tackles, including several impressive solo stops on Benny Snell — Kentucky’s star running back who set the program’s all-time rushing record in his final collegiate game.

The 6’3″, 240-pound freshman obviously has plenty of size, but his quickness and excellent technique when it comes to tackling in the open field set him apart from other players with that rare combination of size and speed.

“I thought he had a great game. As the season’s been going on, he’s been growing and growing more,” starting safety Garrett Taylor said. “You can see his speed from sideline-to-sideline, and you can see his tackling ability. I’m super proud of him.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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