Penn State's 5 Most Important True Freshmen

By Craig Fritz on July 30, 2018 at 9:15 am
Penn State LB Micah Parsons
Harvey Levine, 247Sports

Back-to-back 11-win seasons resulted in the best Nittany Lion recruiting class in decades. With exemplary performances both on the field and on the recruiting trail, there is no shortage of hype and expectations for James Franklin's squad. The talent of the true freshman class is so significant that eight or more players could see time in 2018, thanks at least in part to the new rules surrounding redshirt eligibility. These five are the most likely to make an impact, and some of them could even be in a starting role by season's end.

5. pj mustipher - Defensive tackle

A freshman in name only, Mustipher stands an imposing 6'4 and 305 pounds. His wrestling pedigree is nearly as good as his football chops, and that cross-training experience gives him the ability to move his massive frame with quickness and ease. This combination of size, strength, and speed is not often seen at the collegiate level, let alone in a true freshman. With huge question marks behind starters Kevin Givens and Robert Windsor, Mustipher is primed to be in Sean Spencer's rotation at DT.

4. Justin shorter - wide receiver

Ohhhhh boy. Penn State's had some pretty dang good wide receivers this decade, but none of their ceilings were as high as Shorter. A five-star prospect, he's going to play right away and could see a solid amount of targets come his way with Penn State searching for ways to replace over 60 percent of its production through the air. At 6'4, he'll be the perfect pairing with Juwan Johnson on the outside, and could give defensive coordinators headaches trying to figure who they should key on. 

3. ricky slade - running back

With Saquon Barkley gone, the offense will have to add a few more wrinkles. This is where Slade comes in. The No. 1 all-purpose back in his class, there's plenty of ways he can hurt you. He'll no doubt be in certain packages and could get some attempts in the return game. His biggest role is going to be providing a fun change of pace that can swing out wide and keep defenses off balance. 

2. Jake pinegar - kicker

There may be no incoming freshman with more weight on his shoulders than Pinegar. The only scholarship kicker on the roster, he will be expected to handle at least one of the kickoff or field goal duties. With no kicker on the roster having game experience, Pinegar doesn't have the luxury of learning from a veteran like you would want for a true freshman. If he can be somewhat reliable, it will ease a lot of worries for fans. 

1. micah parsons - outside linebacker

Perhaps the most heralded recruit to come to Happy Valley since Derrick Williams, Parsons will be on the field right away. With a defense depleted by graduation, there's no way Brent Pry can keep him on the bench, even if his understanding of the playbook isn't that of a veteran. Parsons' athleticism is so ridiculous, that he'll be able to make up for mistakes in reads or keys by just being faster and stronger than the competition. There is quite a bit of pressure for Parsons to perform, but there's a reason he was the No. 5 overall recruit in the 2018 class. Sit back and enjoy the fireworks once the new No. 11 steps on the field against App State.

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