State College, Pa. — Micah Parsons could hardly wait to see his face on the massive video board atop Beaver Stadium. He imagined how cool it would be to hear 107,000 fans roar when he was announced as a starting linebacker for Penn State — as a freshman.
Parsons rolled into Happy Valley last year with much fanfare and no shortage of confidence. A five-star prospect whose roller coaster recruitment was laid bare on social media, he had much to prove as a player and a person. Parsons won over the skeptics, coming off the bench in 12 of 13 games and still putting together the greatest freshman season by a linebacker at the school that proudly touts itself as Linebacker U.
It has been 19 years since Penn State had a linebacker selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Parsons has all the attributes to end that drought.
“He’s a generational player,” said LaVar Arrington, the last Penn State linebacker to be a first-rounder.
Parsons is still waiting for that first home start, though. Despite being the first player to lead the team in tackles as a freshman, Parsons had a lot to learn. It was not enough to practice hard.
He needed to focus when he was not participating. Parsons could make plays because of his freaky athleticism, but after playing defensive end in high school he was taking introductory courses at linebacker. Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry said Parsons was at the 100-level last year and is now working on 200.
“Oh, yeah, I’m definitely 200-level. I would say I’m pushing 300-level. I’m probably 300-level, to be honest with you,” Parsons said.
Definitely no shortage of confidence. Parsons’ father, Terrence, said his son needed to be humbled last year.
“And he was a little bit, you know, not happy at first because again this kid has always been the star. Always been on the forefront,” Terrence Parsons said.
“Now it was like, hey, everybody’s a star here. You got to work now and that’s what I was worried about because you know he really never had to work. He was playing with God’s gift.”
Pry said not starting Parsons was not an attempt to teach him humility. It was about getting Parsons to understand what is expected of those at the top of the depth chart.
“It’s an approach. It’s the in-betweens. When we’re not doing a rep (in practice), what’s the behavior? It’s not the rep. It’s the other times. It’s trying to get the most out of every opportunity to learn and to grow as a player and recognize that you need that time,” Pry said.
“You have to take advantage of that.”
Parsons said he was not ready for the attention that came with being a high-profile football recruit in the social media age.
“The more success you have the quicker you got to grow up and the quicker you realize that the better you’re off,” Micah Parsons said.
Terrence Parsons said Micah would lament about not being able to act like a kid.
“I said, ‘Yeah, you’re right,” Terrence Parsons said. “You’ve got two ways to look at this: You could be a kid now and you might have to work a couple of jobs like me and your mom do or become an adult right now and then your dreams can become reality and you can be the biggest kid in the world.”
Parsons is different. At 6-foot-3, and around 250 pounds, Parsons has speed like a running back. He made 83 tackles last season despite only one start: He was pressed into the lineup at Rutgers when a veteran was being disciplined.
Parsons will play weak side linebacker, but he has skills to line up almost anywhere. Franklin expects to use Parsons as the secondary returner on kickoffs this year.
“He’s got elite characteristics,” Franklin said.
Clemson cited, cleared
Clemson’s national championship football program was flagged for eight secondary NCAA violations during a yearlong period from July 2018 through this past June.
The school’s athletic department released a summary of the infractions Wednesday.
None of the violations were considered major and all issues about the penalties have been resolved, according to the school. In all, Clemson self-reported 14 violations in the year ending on June 30.
The football violations reported by the school included a homeowner paying a player above the going rate for work around the home on three separate occasions. Two violations involved players on social media in a promotional capacity.
The other five infractions were committed by football staffers and included reimbursing an athlete for ground transportation expenses above the school’s mileage rate.
Tennessee’s Emmit Gooden will miss the entire season because of a knee injury, leaving the team without their most experienced player on a defensive line that has no returning starters.
Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt says Gooden tore his anterior cruciate ligament Tuesday and will undergo surgery next week.
... Quintez Cephus has filed a petition to be readmitted to the Wisconsin after he was found not guilty of sexually assaulting two female students.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports Wednesday that Cephus directed his attorneys on Tuesday to file the petition. They are asking for a response by today.
The filing is confidential and Cephus’ attorney Stephen Meyer declined further comment.