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Penn State Linebackers Inexperienced But Talented Following Micah Parsons’ Opt-Out

Penn State football’s Micah Parsons officially opted out of the 2020 college football season Thursday afternoon. After the star linebacker established himself as one of the best players in the country last year, Parsons’ absence will certainly be felt in the Nittany Lions’ linebacker room.

Now that he’s left Happy Valley and preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft, Penn State is left with a talented but ultimately unexperienced linebacker room.

The group will likely be led by junior linebacker Ellis Brooks. Last season, Brooks totaled 40 tackles and three sacks in a rotational role for Brent Pry’s defense. His best game came against Maryland when he totaled six tackles and 2.5 sacks en route to Penn State’s 59-0 victory over the Terrapins.

Brooks was already set to take on a larger role following the departures of Cam Brown and Jan Johnson, which left him as the top middle linebacker on Penn State’s spring depth chart. Now, he’ll be tasked with leading a linebacker room dubbed “Linebacker U.”

Jesse Luketa, another junior, will be heavily relied upon in the wake of Parsons’ decision. The Canadian appeared in 12 games during the 2019 season, totaling 24 tackles and four pass deflections. Earlier this summer, Luketa told the media that he was embracing his role as a leader.

 “I have to essentially be the [old guy] in the room because now the younger guys are looking up to me,” Luketa said. “Whether it’s jumping on Zoom calls and making sure they’re on top of their stuff, or helping them out with the playbook. That’s stuff that I’ve taken upon myself, because as of now the onus is on me. I’m a leader in that room now.”

With an influx of young and inexperienced players, Penn State’s linebacker room will need Brooks and Luketa’s leadership now more than ever.

Luketa was listed as the No. 2 middle linebacker on the spring depth chart behind Brooks. However, it’s likely the two will share the field often since they’re the most experienced and accomplished players at the position.

There should be plenty of competition at the position behind Brooks and Luketa, though. Brandon Smith, who was listed as a starting outside linebacker on the spring depth chart, will have every opportunity to earn valuable snaps early on. Smith appeared in 13 games as a true freshman and totaled 13 tackles in limited playing time.

Smith was the only five-star recruit in James Franklin’s 2019 recruiting class. The Mineral, Virginia native has plenty of talent and will now attempt to help fill the huge void left by last season’s three starting linebackers: Parsons, Johnson, and Brown.

Several other linebackers will also compete for playing time. Lance Dixon, Charlie Katshir, and Max Chizmar all saw very little game action last season. Dixon, who is a former four-star recruit, will be a redshirt freshman this season after appearing in just three games last season. Robbie Dwyer and Alex Furmanek, two Pennsylvania natives, will be redshirt freshmen this season as well.

Curtis Jacobs and Zuriah Fisher will arrive in Happy Valley as four-star recruits this fall. Additionally, three-star recruit Tyler Elsdon will join the Nittany Lions. The three will attempt to earn meaningful playing time early on in their college careers.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a sophomore majoring in journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He grew up in Lindenhurst, NY and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his rants on all of his teams follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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