Athlon Sports Releases Preseason All-Big Ten Selections

By Matthew Filipovits on May 22, 2019 at 9:00 am
Sep 29, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Pat Freiermuth (87) during the fourth quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium. Ohio State defeated Penn State 27-26. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
© Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
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Athlon Sports has released their Big Ten Football Preseason All-Conference teams, with 11 Nittany Lions making the list at 13 different positions. Those eleven different players are tied for second with Ohio State and behind Michigan's 14.

First-team

  • TE Pat Freiermuth
  • DE Yetur Gross-Matos

Just a true sophomore, Pat Freiermuth has already established himself as one of the best dual-threat tight ends in the country. He can block, he can catch, he probably could score on an end around if you asked him to. He's only going to get better after a year in Dwight Galt's weight room. He's a sleeper pick for All-America honors.

Yetur Gross-Matos is looked at as a potential first-round pick for a reason. His 20 tackles for loss last season after being a rotational player in 2017 shows just how much he can grow in one offseason. Only a true junior, he's only going to get better as he continues to get more comfortable. Carl Nassib's single-season sack record isn't safe.

Second-team

  • DT Robert Windsor
  • LB Micah Parsons
  • KR KJ Hamler

Windsor had a very strong finish to 2018, so it's only fitting that the hype would transfer over to this season. With Kevin Givens off the NFL, he's Penn State's most experienced defensive lineman and another strong season could push him into early Day 2 of the draft.

This could be my bias seeping through but I have a hard time imaging Parsons won't be a first-teamer come December. He led the team in tackles while playing a brand new position and while playing less than half of the team's defensive snaps.

KJ Hamler is one of those hold-your-breath type players. With Thompkins gone, he's the front runner to take over punt return duties full time. He's going to take at least one return to the house.

Third-team

  • WR KJ Hamler
  • C Michal Menet
  • OL Steven Gonzalez
  • CB John Reid

Hamler appears again, this time getting the respect he deserves as a receiver. He quickly became somewhat of a security blanket for McSorley, so expect first-year starter Sean Clifford to look to him a lot too.

Michal Menet has all the physical tools to be a dominant offensive lineman. He showed flashes last season, but it's usually the second year a lineman starts where we see the biggest jump.

Steven Gonzalez has been a key member of the offensive line for a long time. He's the unquestioned leader of the unit and has the seen the position go from the team's biggest weakness to one of its strengths.

It took John Reid a bit of time to get back in rhythm, but once he did he was as good as he was before his knee injury. An entire season at full health could see him retake his spot as one of the Big Ten's best all-around corners.

FOurth-team

  • RB Ricky Slade
  • S Garrett Taylor
  • P Blake Gillikin
  • PR KJ Hamler

Slade being on here despite having fewer than 50 carries in his career shows that Athlon believes in the running back machine Penn State has built. Even with a higher split in carries than we've seen in the past, Slade coould still surpass 1,000 yards, and his skills as a receiver will give defensive coordinators headaches all season.

Garrett Taylor was awesome in his first season as a starter, finishing tied for the team lead in interceptions. He's also terrific in the run game, giving Brent Pry a great weapon in the secondary.

Blake Gillikin may have taken a step back last season, but Joe Lorig's track record shows he can get him back on track. He's a weapon when he's on, so here's hoping we see a return to form.

Hamler makes his third appearance, this time as a kick returner. If nothing else, appearing three times shows his immense value to this team and that he's one of the best athletes in the Big Ten.

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