Rudel: LB Parsons making mark as team’s top tackler

There are several choices on offense — receiver/returner KJ Hamler, tight end Pat Freiermuth, kicker Jake Pinegar — and Cory likes offense. You may have heard that.

I’ll take linebacker Micah Parsons, in part for the sake of this week’s topic and in bigger part because I think you can make a case, which I will do, that he’s been the most impressive young player.

Hamler is the most breathtaking, but Parsons has been the most consistent.

He leads the team in tackles with 58. Think about that. Parsons has yet to start a game, and as a true freshman, he’s the No. 1 tackler at Linebacker U — despite seeing approximately half the snaps as the starting linebackers (Koa Farmer, Jan Johnson and Cam Brown).

Parsons also leads the Nittany Lions in special teams tackles with five.

Gradually, Parsons’ role has grown. He played almost the entire second half last week against Wisconsin, when the Lions held the Badgers to a field goal, and led the team in tackles with seven.

He was not on the field when Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor busted a 71-yard touchdown run on the Badgers’ third play to open the scoring. (Draw your own conclusions.)

The nucleus of Penn State’s defense returns next season — when it will be needed to help transition a first-year starting quarterback — and the experience Parsons is gaining now will make him a centerpiece.

James Franklin was asked this week if Parsons is close to being anointed as a starter.

He was non-committal, but did say: “He’s now using the techniques and fundamentals and keys and things like that that are allowing him really to take his game to the next level and also build that trust that his role continues to grow. I think you’ve seen that all season and specifically last week. He’ll just continue headed in that direction.”

If he’s not in the starting lineup beginning Saturday at Rutgers and for the remainder of this season, it will be surprising.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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