The Nittany Lions put the finishing touches on another 10-win season with a Senior Day win over lowly Rutgers. While they may have fallen short of reaching the Big Ten championship game, they had several standout performers that made the 2019 season special.
Though the bowl game remains before the offseason officially begins, Pro Football Focus released its All-Big Ten teams for the regular season, and several Nittany Lions made the cut.
Tight End – Pat Freiermuth
Brycen Hopkins may have better raw stats, but the Purdue tight end had serious drop issues (8) and played in an offense that passed 72 times more than anyone else in the Big Ten. Freiermuth, on the other hand, didn’t drop a single pass on 41 catches all season long. He also caught seven touchdowns and broke six tackles on the year.
Linebacker – Micah Parsons
Parsons proved himself to be one of the most prolific run defenders in the entire country as a true sophomore. His 94.8 run-defense grade was far and away the best figure of any linebacker in the country. One of the big reasons why is that Parsons missed only six tackles on 100 attempts all season.
Punt Returner – KJ Hamler
Linebacker – Jan Johnson
Safety – Lamont Wade
Johnson and Wade are exactly the types of players that PFF loves. Johnson, while not having incredible range, was an incredibly sure tackler, nary missing a play to be made. The defense will miss him next year.
Wade started slowly but was arguably the best safety in the conference from the midseason point on. He excelled as a tackler, did well in coverage when asked to man up, and was a turnover machine.
Offensive Guard – Steven Gonzalez
Edge Defender – Yetur Gross-Matos
Interior Defender – Robert Windsor
Linebacker – Cam Brown
Safety – Jaquan Brisker
Gonzalez was a steady presence along the left side of the line in 2019, just as he was for most of his Penn State career. Gross-Matos and Windsor, while not as prolific as they were a season ago, were still a force to be reckoned with along the defensive line. Brown took noticeable steps forward in his development that allowed his speed and power to really start to shine from his outside linebacker spot. Brisker, much like Wade, had a slow start but gave Brent Pry another safety he could trust on the back end, giving Wade the opportunity to shine in the Star role.
Running Back – Journey Brown
Wide Receiver – KJ Hamler
Edge Defender – Shaka Toney
Interior Defender – PJ Mustipher
Punter – Blake Gillikin
Many thought the Penn State run game would struggle once star freshman Noah Cain was lost to injury. Instead, Journey Brown broke out in a major way, setting himself up for a potentially prolific 2020 season. Hamler was his usual dynamic self out wide but had a quieter end to the season. Toney's evolution to becoming a complete defensive end from simply a pass rush specialist speaks to how hard of a worker the Philadelphia-product is. Mustipher, similar to Brown, seems set up for a monster 2020 season after forcing his way into a near split in snaps with Antonio Shelton. Gillikin had a long-awaited return to form in 2019, capped off by a beautiful 72-yarded (downed at the 3) in his Beaver Stadium finale.