The Champaign News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen released his preseason top-100 Heisman rankings. Three Nittany Lions, Sean Clifford, Journey Brown, and Micah Parsons all made the Big Ten writer's early list of candidates.
Sean Clifford leads the way for Penn State checking in at No. 18, making him the second-highest ranked Big Ten player behind Justin Fields, who occupies the top spot. Asmussen says of Clifford: "[The] Cincinnati product took over for Trace McSorley and threw for 2,654 yards and 23 touchdowns. He’s just getting started."
Journey Brown checks in at the No. 28 spot, making him the fourth-highest ranked running back behind Travis Etienne (Clemson), Chubba Hubbard (Oklahoma State), and Najee Harris (Alabama). It's fair to say Asmussen is expecting a big jump for Journey Brown to join that group, as he was the only one of the group not to surpass 200 carries last season.
Asmussen on Brown: "One of James Franklin’s many weapons, on both sides of the ball. In 2019, he averaged 7 yards per carry and scored 12 times. The next Ki-Jana Carter? Perhaps."
Parsons rounds out the Nittany Lions on the list with an arguably too-low placement at No. 48, making him the third-highest ranked defensive player on the list behind Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau, and LSU corner Derek Stingley. Asmussen's turns to Ben Jones of StateCollege.com who writes:
Parsons is as exciting as they come for a defensive player, and his dominant performance against Memphis in the Cotton Bowl (14 tackles, two sacks) only solidified him as maybe this preseason’s premier linebacker. Parsons is quick, athletic and constantly improving. What’s impressive about the Harrisburg, Pa., native is that where he once made up for his youth with his athletic frame, he’s now in the right place at the right time with all the skill to use.
Parsons will be the backbone of this defense and has the talent to at least put himself in the category of a defensive player who at least earns some Heisman respect even if he doesn’t get the invite.
Expect to see Parsons do everything this year and watch how he operates as his football IQ continues to grow. Don’t even be surprised if he returns a kick or lines up at defensive end. Defensive coordinator Brent Pry has let Parsons fly and when he’s on his game, there aren’t many better. His 109 tackles led Penn State in 2019, and it’s hard to imagine anyone catching him in 2020.
Simply put, Parsons is turning into everything he was advertised to be, and that’s good news for Penn State. Perhaps even better news for whoever falls in the Top 10 of next year’s draft.
Penn State is one of just four programs with at least three players in the top 50, tying LSU and Oklahoma State and trailing Alabama who leads the way with five players in the top half of the list.
The entire rankings can be found here.