A pair of Penn State players are among those honored on the 247Sports True Freshman All-American Team, announced Monday. Tight end Pat Freiermuth and linebacker Micah Parsons land on the list following impressive debut seasons.
Freiermuth is the lone tight end selection, while Parsons lands alongside Merlin Robertson (Arizona State) and Mike Rose (Iowa State) at linebacker. Both Nittany Lions newcomers appeared in every game this fall.
Parsons, the program’s top-ranked recruit since 2005 (receiver Derrick Williams) transitioned to linebacker upon early enrollment. He previously starred at defensive end and running back during a dominant prep career.
After initially taking reps at middle linebacker, Parsons slid outside to handle strong-side duties. Though fifth-year senior Koa Farmer started in that spot, it was essentially a shared role throughout much of the season.
Parsons notched one start — at Rutgers — when weak-side linebacker Cam Brown was suspended for the first half due to a minor violation of team rules. He tallied his first full collegiate sack in that contest, forcing Scarlet Knights quarterback Artur Sitkowski to fumble in the process.
“I think he is a lot more comfortable and he is playing a lot smarter,” senior safety and defensive captain Nick Scott said one week earlier after a win over Wisconsin. “He is extremely talented, extremely fast and athletic and everything like that. It took him a little bit to rely on his intuition and his reads rather than just his legs. So now he is doing both, and we are reaping the benefits because he is a phenomenal athlete and he is just playing within the framework of the defense much better.”
Parsons finished the regular-season with a team-best 69 tackles, including four for loss.
“He just continues to build trust in the coaching staff. … (defensive coordinator Brent) Pry puts a lot of emphasis on trust,” Penn State coach James Franklin said in November. “Trust with the defensive players, with what we run. He’s obviously very talented, and he obviously has a lot of trust built up in Koa Farmer and the amount of time they’ve been together, as well. Micah just keeps earning that every single day. More and more trust by how he’s going about his business.”
Parsons was named to the midseason 247Sports Midseason True Freshman All-American Team, but that wasn’t the case for Freiermuth, who came on strong as autumn advanced.
Though he initially filled a reserve role in a positional group that features program veterans Nick Bowers, Danny Dalton and Jonathan Holland, Freiermuth scored in the Big Ten opener and stepped up as starter one week later against Ohio State — again catching a touchdown toss. He didn’t relinquish that status for the following seven contests, and proved to be one of quarterback Trace McSorley‘s most reliable pass targets.
Freiermuth, who was considered a four-star talent and top-10 overall tight end prospect in 247Sports 2018 composite rankings, secured multiple receptions in all but one start and scored three times in the final two games, wrapping up the regular season with 24 catches for 330 yards and seven touchdowns. The Penn State staff selected him as Offensive Game MVP after his two-touchdown effort at Rutgers.
“The thing that we noticed pretty quickly is the stage just isn’t too big for him,” Franklin said in October while assessing the decision to start Freiermuth. “It hasn’t been in the weight room. It hasn’t been in practice. It hasn’t been in meetings. You never know when the lights come on, but it hasn’t seemed to be there, as well.”
Freiermuth and Parsons were honorable mention selections when All-Big Ten teams were announced. They’ll conclude their first Nittany Lions campaign Jan. 1 when Penn State plays Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl.