Micah Parsons’ Sideline-To-Sideline Quickness Highlights Game-Changing Skill Set

In 2018, Micah Parsons arrived at Penn State as the second-highest rated prospect in the program’s storied history on the recruiting trail. Looking back on his unparalleled production, it’s safe to say the Harrisburg native made the most of his short and prolific college career.

Entering his first camp cycle as a Nittany Lion, Parsons was tasked with a position change from defensive end to linebacker for the betterment of Brent Pry’s unit. Although the adjustment presented the high-motor athlete with an initial onset of growing pains, Parsons’ production immediately sky-rocketed at the start of his true freshman campaign.

After an impressive opening showing in an early-season scare against Appalachian State, the five-star product shined in primetime action at Pitt. During his second-career outing, Parsons logged seven tackles and assisted in a forced fumble on an opposing special teams blunder. From that point forward, the blossoming prodigy produced five or more tackles in nine out of his next 10 games, cementing himself as the cornerstone of the linebacking group despite remaining as a second-team contributor.

In his first start in the second-to-last regular-season contest against Rutgers, Parsons showcased his elite ability to penetrate the backfield. In a victorious effort, Parsons tallied seven total tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. The performance earned him the distinction as Penn State’s defensive player of the week for the first time in his young tenure.

To end his memorable freshman season, Parsons terrorized Kentucky’s potent offensive attack in the Citrus Bowl. The young phenom outshined opposing defensive superstar Josh Allen by racking up 13 tackles and an additional forced fumble. Following the contest, many national scouts pinned Parsons as a prospect set to hurdle atop of NFL Draft big boards in the following years.

Astonishingly, Parsons led the team with 82 tackles and two forced fumbles with only one start under his belt as a freshman. The unmatched productivity earned him a spot on the Freshmen All-American teams through The Athletic, ESPN, and 247Sports. With a guaranteed starting position looming in the balance as a sophomore, the projectable linebacker was set to make an even bigger splash in year two.

Immediately upon beginning his second campaign as a Nittany Lion, “Linebacker U”‘s newest staple became a household name on a national scale. In week two against Buffalo, Parsons recorded 10 tackles, including two stops for a loss. His tear continued into the highly anticipated series finale against Pitt, where he exploded for an additional nine tackles and a slew of impressive plays in coverage.

In his first White Out as a starter, the All-American balled out during the primetime showing. The budding superstar hounded Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson for all four quarters, resulting in a career-high 14 tackle performance. More impressively, eight of his stops held Michigan to one or less yard.

While competing against ranked opponents, the brute run-stopper always shined the brightest. In pivotal action against Ohio State, Parsons brought an unprecedented amount of pressure toward Justin Fields, resulting in 10 tackles, a forced fumble, and a loose ball recovery. Although the late Nittany Lion push wasn’t enough to topple the heavy favorites, Parsons once again displayed his ability to play at the highest level.

Unexpectedly, Parsons’ last game in a Nittany Lion uniform came in the highly-anticipated Cotton Bowl matchup against Memphis. Fittingly, the already established legend played his most complete game in the blue and white in Dallas.

Parsons was a force to be reckoned with all afternoon, as he tied his career-best output with 14 tackles. Furthermore, he tallied a new high by generating three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles against the overwhelmed Tiger front. The gaudy stat line helped push Parsons over the 100-tackle mark for the season, making him the first Nittany Lion to complete the feat since Marcus Allen.

Following a season resulting in consensus All-American honors by all viable publications, Parsons never played another down for the Nittany Lions. During early-season scheduling disputes within the Big Ten, the sure-fire first-round selection signed with Athletes First Sports Agency to further his training to better his chances at the next level.

With less than two weeks away from the NFL Draft’s opening round, Parsons’ stock remains solid as a consensus top-20 pick amongst ESPN, CBS Sports, Pro Football Focus, and Fox’s big-boards. Many draft experts have the generational talent evaluated as one of the best prospects in his class but cite “character issues,” spurred by alleged claims from former Penn State teammate Isaiah Humphries, as a concern entering the next level.

Recently, Parsons spoke about how he’s since been able to learn and grow from past lapses in judgement.

“Obviously, people had some concerns about things that had happened,” Parsons said. “But at the end of the day, I was a kid. I was 17, 18. We all made mistakes when we were 17 to 18. I’m not going to let it control or dictate the person I am now. I’m not going to let something that happened four years ago dictate who I’m becoming and the father I want to be.”

On the field, there are zero question marks regarding Parsons’ game. The natural-flowing linebacker offers top-level lateral quickness with the ability to defend the run in sideline-to-sideline fashion and cover the passing attacking in drop-back situations. As a sophomore, Parsons finished the season as the nation’s top run defender, per Pro Football Focus.

“I just feel I’m the most versatile player in this class. I can play middle linebacker, I can play outside, and I can pass rush. There’s no place I can’t play and utilize my skills,” Parsons said.

“My versatility is going to come in handy,” he added. “I played D-end pretty much my whole life, so rushing the passer has never been a problem. First and second down, I can go sideline-to-sideline. Third down, I can go get the quarterback. So I think I’ll be walking into a great position.”

As a pro, Parsons would be best suited in a highly variable scheme allowing him to play on a pressure-centric defense with multiple fronts. Franchises such as the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, and Las Vegas Raiders all have shown interest in Parsons’ unique skillset. With each team holding a mid-round selection, the pass rusher could land with any franchise as a can’t-miss commodity and perhaps the top defensive player in this year’s class.

With minimal wear-and-tear along with a tremendous football IQ, Parsons will undoubtedly make his mark at the next level. His ability to cover sideline-to-sideline with blazing speed makes the Happy Valley product one of the most sought-after prospects in the last decade. Wherever he lands, Parsons will likely start for his selected franchise from day one.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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