The Big Ten East should be one of the most competitive divisions in all of college football once again in 2019, and one of those teams expected to be near the top is Penn State.
Despite the Nittany Lions losing their starting quarterback, skill players left and right, and key defensive players, experts still expect them to reload and compete at a high level.
Here are some Penn State players to watch when the Wolverines play them in mid-October.
Micah Parsons, LB
One of Penn State’s most talented defenders heading into the new season is sophomore linebacker Micah Parsons.
Playing in all 13 games for Penn State in 2018, Parsons finished his true freshman season with the most tackles on the team (83), five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He made eight tackles against the Wolverines in the Big House last year.
Penn State probably envisioned good production out of Parsons his freshman season, considering he was a 5-star recruit and the No. 5 player in the country, but for Parsons to lead the team in tackles was remarkable.
He will be one of the Nittany Lions’ best players on defense in 2019, and the Wolverines would be smart to keep an eye on him before their matchup with Penn State.
Sean Clifford, QB
With Trace McSorely off to the NFL and Tommy Stevens transferring to Mississippi State, redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford is the favorite to start at quarterback for Penn State.
At this point in his career, Clifford is a relative unknown to people outside the Penn State football program. After redshirting in 2017, Clifford was 5-of-7 passing for 195 yards and two touchdowns in four games in 2018. He certainly did not play enough
After Christian Hackenburg went to the NFL in 2015, not many knew what was coming from McSorely once he took the starting job the following season. I am not saying Clifford is about to do the same thing, but James Franklin sure has gotten a lot out of the quarterback position during his time at Penn State.
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE
For those of you who don’t know, Penn State junior defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos is a beast.
He had 22 (!!!) tackles for loss during his sophomore season in 2018, along with 9.5 sacks, 71 total tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. It was a breakout year for the 6-foot-5, 264-pounder from Virginia, and he is looking to build upon that heading into a year where he is NFL Draft-eligible. He was even included in this early 2020 NFL Mock Draft.
Penn State’s pass rush will likely be a force to be reckoned with in 2019, and Gross-Matos is going to be a big reason for that. Jon Runyan Jr. and the winner of the right tackle position battle will have their hands full with Gross-Matos and Parsons.