Micah Parsons Poised To Lead ‘Crazy-Competitive Room’ Entering 2020 Season

It’s never ideal to lose two key players — let alone team captains — in one offseason. But for Penn State’s linebackers, expectations remain sky-high.

With Cam Brown and Jan Johnson graduated and off to the NFL, Micah Parsons now stands as the only returning starting linebacker for the Nittany Lions. James Franklin couldn’t ask for anyone better to lead this position group, though, as the Harrisburg native led Penn State with 109 tackles last season, along with 6.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.

While it’s Parsons who’s garnering the preseason hype and even some Heisman hype, he insists there are plenty of other talents alongside him.

“Brandon Smith and Lance Dixon are both gonna have the chance to be starters this year, and so are Jesse Luketa and Ellis Brooks,” Parsons said on Monday. “It’s gonna be a crazy-competitive room this summer, this camp. I personally can’t wait to see who’s going to win those jobs out of those four. All of them are hard-working guys that are going to come in and really compete.”

While none of those players had a chance to start last season, they’ve each proven they can be relied upon to step up in 2020. A former five-star recruit, Smith finished his freshman campaign with 14 total tackles, including a massive hit in the final seconds of Penn State’s season opener against Idaho.

Dixon, on the other hand, appeared in just three games and recorded two tackles. However, defensive coordinator Brent Pry has already explained he’ll certainly battle for a starting spot during this offseason.

Luketa and Brooks will clearly play key snaps for Penn State’s defense this season. The former recorded 24 tackles in a rotational role last year, while Brooks added 39 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

The talent is clearly still there for the Nittany Lions despite the losses of Brown and Johnson, but there’s no doubt the group will miss their leadership immensely. Both were selected as captains for the 2019 season and were part of several big-time moments during their careers in Happy Valley.

With this in mind, there’s no doubt that Parsons will need to be a strong voice on the defensive side of the ball and make some big-time plays.

“It’s always a challenge when you’re stepping into a bigger role,” Parsons said. “I went from the guy that never says anything to the guy that probably has to speak up more. I gotta go outside of my comfort zone a little bit…It’s going to be a challenging year for me, but it’s one that’s going to help me grow.”

Parsons added he always looked up to his former teammate, Johnson, as a fantastic leader. He also has turned to Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley for advice on how he should approach this season. Not being able to be with his teammates in-person due to the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t made things any easier, either.

“[Not being there] makes everything so much harder,” Parsons said. “You don’t really know who’s paying attention or working out as hard as they possibly can. It’s hard to really monitor, but we get this chance to come back and get in a flow of things during these voluntary workouts, and we’ll just go from there…We’re gonna control the things we can control now, and get better from them.”

As if he hasn’t already impressed enough in his first two seasons in Happy Valley, just add “defensive leader” to Parsons’ long list of accolades and accomplishments. While he knows the hype surrounding him is only going to grow, he’s focused on winning football games during his third trip around the block.

“I just play the game and just so happen to be good at it,” Parsons said. “There’s no more pressure to it. I feel like when you add pressure and all those other factors, it could alter how you play and perform. I just want to go out there and have fun with the game. There ain’t nothing more to it than just going out there and trying to win championships this year.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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