Parsons’ exit creates new opportunities
UNIVERSITY PARK — Even with a large piece of one of Penn State’s prominent positions breaking away to the NFL, the future of what it has to offer is anything but weak.
The departure of former Nittany Lion Micah Parsons has created opportunities for redshirt junior Ellis Brooks and junior Jesse Luketa, and they’re looking forward to it.
“Playing linebacker at Penn State is a standard,” Brooks told the media Thursday. “Micah is an amazing player, but it goes beyond just one, and it’s about living up to that standard.”
Brooks called it a “next man up mentality.”
“It’s about me and Jesse pushing forward to get things going,” he said. “To be quiet, to listen, and pick up as much information as I can and translate from the film study to the field is the next biggest jump going forward for this group.”
In addition to Brooks and Luketa, the Lions will look to Brandon Smith and Lance Dixon as candidates to fill the other starting LB spot.
Last season, Brooks and Luketa produced a combined 50-plus tackles, making them reliable players for James Franklin and defensive coordinator Brent Pry to turn to this season.
As for Smith, his time on the field hasn’t compared to that of his fellow teammates, but Brooks has no doubt what he will bring to the table.
“Brandon is a very physical player, has a great range, and a big body frame,” Brooks said. “He covers a lot of ground so the sky’s the limit with him. It’s a matter of focusing on the details, and once he accomplishes that, his game is going to keep going to another level.”
To add to the confidence this group of Nittany Lions are stirring up, even with the loss of Parsons, cornerback Joey Porter — son of the former Pittsburgh Steeler — is optimistic.
“The people we have next up in line are ready,” Porter said Thursday. “Micah was a great player, but I don’t feel like we will miss a beat because we got others who are going to step in and be ready.”
Dixon described the connection Parsons inspired on and off the field, and to replace his athletic role is one thing but to fill his leadership void is another.
“He brought that togetherness to our room,” Dixon said. “It was a brotherhood so we’re going to try and keep it like that since everyone is a part of it. It’s hard to lose one of your brothers, but we have to keep that going.”