Penn State Preseason Awards
We are one week away from Penn State football. The team at For The Glory gives you their preseason award. Penn State kicks off their season against Idaho at 3:30 PM EST in University Park, Pennsylvania.
Freshman Player of the Year
Brandon Musso: DE Jayson Oweh (Redshirt Freshman)
OK, maybe I’m bending the rules a little bit because Oweh is an academic sophomore but by only appearing in four games last year he was able to be redshirted so I’m going to consider him a freshman for the purposes of my pick. In the four games he appeared in, I got a quick look at his talent level and I was very impressed. His incredible athleticism will lead him to be explosive off the edge and cause havoc in the backfield. Now, with a full season ahead, I have big expectations for him to be the “redshirt freshman” player of the year.
Kraigen Rasalla: OT Rasheed Walker (Redshirt Freshman)
The anticipated starting left tackle, this man is a monster. At 6’6” 325 lbs, he has the prototypical size of a left tackle. I think his ability to protect Sean Clifford will go a long way in how good this Penn State offense will be.
Cory Lestochi: CB Keaton Ellis (True Freshman)
Ellis is the only freshman I had the privilege watching in person when he played for State College High School. He was a man amongst boys with his speed and acceleration. He will be entering a shallow cornerback room that should give him plenty of opportunities to see the field. He also has the ability to help in the return game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is a household name before the season is over.
Breakout Player of the Year
Brandon: RB Ricky Slade
Now that Miles Sanders is off to the NFL, I fully expect Ricky Slade to come into his own and have a big year. It’s hard to make a full assessment right now considering his limited playing time. However, he showed some serious flashes in the Citrus Bowl last year which leads me to believe he’s poised to have a breakout year.
Kraigen: DE Shaka Toney
We’ve seen the pass rush specialist go for four sacks in one game (Indiana), but haven’t seen consistent performance week in and week out. 2019 will be a different story as he becomes the starting defensive end across from Gross-Matos and makes his move to a double digit sack total, as well.
Cory: WR Jahan Dotson
The true freshman only had 13 catches for 203 yards last season, but always seemed to show up when the offense needed him most. People close to the program say Dotson is the most natural receiver on the roster and catching the ball just comes easy to him. This position group struggled mightily last year and I look for Dotson to be Mr. Dependable all season long.
Offensive Player of the Year
Brandon: QB Sean Clifford
As far as the 2019 season goes, Clifford is the one player that has me more excited than any other. I can’t help to look back and remember some of the deadly accurate throws he’s made in his very limited playing time. He’s the starter now and if those throws are any indication of his talent, he is in for a very big season in 2019.
Kraigen: QB Sean Clifford
He might be inexperienced, but from limited game action, I think Clifford has the chance to be special. If his receivers can hold on to the ball, Clifford will have a special season.
Cory: WR KJ Hamler
There are very few players like KJ Hamler in the country. The do-it-all receiver broke out last season for 42 catches, 754 yards, 5 TDS and 4 rushes, 44 yards, and 1 TD. New receivers coach, Gerad Parker, had a player with a similar skillset at Duke and I expect him to take Hamler’s game to the next level. Don’t be surprised if Hamler has a 80 catches, 20 rushes, 10+ TDs season as the Nittany Lions should get him at least 10 touches per game.
Defensive Player of the Year
Brandon Musso: OLB Micah Parsons
By gathering a full year of experience playing linebacker at the college level last year, Parsons sets up well to have an even better season this year. He was the team’s 2018 leading tackler as a true freshman. His success as such a young player goes to show the level of talent he possess. He is going to be a key part of the defense this year so much so that I’m picking him as my defensive player of the year. Cory wrote about how Micah Parsons has proved him wrong here and Kraigen has him at No.3 on his list of Penn State’s most important players.
Kraigen: DE Yetur Gross-Matos
Parsons will be team MVP but Gross-Matos will be the one that makes the defense tick. His ability to draw attention from blockers will free up his teammates. Expect double digit sacks from the potential top ten pick.
Cory: CB Tariq Castro-Fields
The lengthy cornerback doesn’t get enough credit for how well he has played in his first two seasons. Take last year for example, where he didn’t give up a single touchdown in pass coverage. Because Defensive Coordinator, Brent Pry trusts his coverage ability, Penn State’s defense will be able to run a lot of different schemes and exotic blitzes. With a stout defensive line that’s going to put a lot of pressure on QBs, expect Castro-Fields interception totals to sky rocket in 2019.
Most Valuable Player (MVP)
Brandon: DE Yetur Gross-Matos
Multiple times I have written about the importance of a good defensive line, which is why I picked a defensive lineman for MVP. Gross-Matos is an impact player that has made his name by wreaking havoc in the backfield. By continuing to rack up sacks and tackles-for-loss, he will surely be a very valuable part of the defense and the team as a whole.
Kraigen: OLB Micah Parsons
The sophomore LB will be the heart and soul of a defense that will be one of the best, if not the best, in the Big Ten. He’s going to leave an impact in his second year reminiscent of guys like Posluszny, Lee, and Connor.
Cory: QB Sean Clifford
Sean Clifford is going to be successful off the bat and here’s why. He has two qualities that will help him get over the first-year hump: accuracy and leadership. The first is pretty straightforward, accuracy and ball placement is the difference between a receiver catching the ball in stride and an interception. Everyone I have talked to has said he throws a beautiful ball and is deadly accurate. The second quality, leadership, is pivotal when there are bumps in the road because his teammates will have his back. When the rest of the team has faith in their quarterback, anything is possible. And since this team will go as far as Sean Clifford will take it, he is the most valuable player on the team.