James Franklin confirms that Micah Parsons won't return to Penn State for 2020 season

NJ Advance Media Group (TNS)
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 28: Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Micah Parsons (11) celebrates after a sack during the Cotton Bowl Classic college football game against the Memphis Tigers on December 28, 2019 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Likely a top-five pick in next year’s NFL Draft, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons announced last month that he’s opted not to play in 2020 because of the risk of contracting COVID-19.

He’s vowed to instead focus on preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft.

However, with the Big Ten returning to play after initially postponing the 2020 season, some thought Parsons might reconsider.

Parsons, however, will stick with his decision to leave college.

Penn State coach James Franklin confirmed Wednesday that Parsons won’t be returning to the Nittany Lions for the 2020 season. Parsons initially opted out of his junior season in early August, but there was some hope that the Big Ten’s decision to begin its season on Oct. 24 might prompt Parsons to return to school.

“We had great conversation with Micah and both his mom and dad,” Franklin told reporters on Wednesday. “I think there was a legitimate possibility for that to happen. But as we continued to talk, the timing of it made it challenging. That won’t be happening. We understand the decision. Just like we were on the front end, we’re supportive of the decision.”

Parsons' final game in a Penn State uniform was likely his best. He dominated the Cotton Bowl victory over Memphis with 14 tackles, two forced fumbles and two sacks to earn MVP honors.

The former Harrisburg High standout finished last season as a consensus All-American and the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year. He was also a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to college football's top linebacker.

He will likely be a top-three defender picked in the draft and may have more athletic upside than anyone in the 2021 field. His versatility could make him the first defender picked. At PSU, as he could have played anywhere from linebacker to cornerback at 6 foot, 3 inches and 247 pounds.

Parsons should, at least, be the top linebacker taken. He has a similar build to, and is almost as athletic as, Penn State star and former NFL All-Pro LaVar Arrington, one of the top college linebackers of all-time. Parson’s instincts and ability to play within a system might be even better.

The loss of his services is huge setback for Penn State, but a big gain for every other team in the Big Ten East.