If you were asked to name some of the key players fueling Penn State's drive towards its 8-0 start to the season, chances are that three of the first names out of your mouth would be KJ Hamler, Micah Parsons, and Yetur Gross-Matos. Those three have been instrumental in leading this young team to a top-five ranking and a legitimate shot at a College Football Playoff berth.
Their efforts have not gone unnoticed by the college football world at large, as Hamler was named a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award, which is given annually to the "College Football Player of the Year", while Parsons and Gross-Matos were named semifinalists for the Bednarik Award, which is given annually to the "College Defensive Player of the Year".
Hamler paces the team in receptions (37), receiving yards (620) and touchdowns (8). He has been electric from week one and is causing constant problems for opposing defenses even when they specifically scheme to try and stop him.
Parsons leads the team in tackles (57) and despite less exciting numbers elsewhere (6 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 pass breakups) he has been incredible. He's been all over the field and has just missed racking up at least 10 more tackles for loss as well as a couple of interceptions. He's been outstanding and has quickly become one of the best linebackers in the country.
Gross-Matos hasn't been as prolific as he was a year ago, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that he's receiving far more attention from opposing offensive lines than he did a year ago, and that fact has allowed him to draw attention and allow other teammates like Shaka Toney to flourish, while still getting his. The defensive end has 5.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss to go with 26 total tackles.