Penn State’s best football player won’t be a part of the 2020 season.
Micah Parsons, a consensus All-American and Big Ten Linebacker of the Year in 2019, will not play this fall, according to multiple media reports.
Yahoo Sports had the story first. 24/7 Sports confirmed it through a program source Wednesday, the same day the Big Ten announced its 2020 football schedule. Neither Parsons nor Penn State had commented as of Wednesday afternoon.
Parsons, a junior from Harrisburg, had 109 tackles, five sacks and 14 tackles for loss last season. His brilliant performance in the Cotton Bowl — 14 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles — had cemented his status as one of the top returning players in the sport for 2020.
Players are NFL draft-eligible three years after their high school class graduates. Analysts consider Parsons a likely top 10 pick, and one of the two or three top defensive players taken, in next year’s draft. That would be true regardless of whether he plays this season, assuming he stays healthy. By opting out of a probable final college season, Parsons is protecting an investment in his future.
One cautionary tale here is that of former Michigan tight end Jake Butt, who played in an essentially meaningless Orange Bowl game in 2017, tore an ACL and went from a probable second-round NFL draft pick to the fifth round. The injury cost Butt an estimated $2.8 million.
The same year, running backs Christian McCaffrey of Stanford and Leonard Fournette of LSU skipped their team’s bowls to prepare/save themselves for the draft.
Fournette was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft and signed a four-year, $27 million contract, with an $18 signing bonus, with the Jacksonville Jaguars. McCaffery, now one of the best players in the NFL, went eighth overall to Carolina and got a four-year, $17.5 million deal with a $10.7 million signing bonus.
Butt got four years, $2.7 million, and his NFL career, with the Denver Broncos, has been plagued by complications of the knee injury.
Another of the Big Ten’s best returning players, Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman, announced Monday he too is opting out of the season.
Parsons’ absence will be, of course, a blow to Penn State, which is ranked in the top 10 nationally in most preseason rankings. Linebacker remains one of the team’s more talented position -groups, though.
The obvious fill-in for Parsons at Sam linebacker is athletic junior Jesse Luketa, with fourth-year junior Ellis Brooks at MLB and sophomore Brandn Smith at WLB. Redshirt freshman Lance Dixon may now have a bigger role, as could Charlie Katshir, a redshirt sophomore from Cumberland Valley High School.