Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Name Eight Captains Ahead Of Week 1
Penn State football officially announced its captains for the 2019 season Saturday afternoon, as voted upon by the program’s coaches and players.
The captains, in order of seniority, are listed below:
- Cam Brown (senior, linebacker)
- Blake Gillikin (senior, punter)
- Jan Johnson (senior, linebacker)
- Garrett Taylor (senior, safety)
- Michal Menet (junior, center)
- Sean Clifford (sophomore, quarterback)
- Pat Freiermuth (sophomore, tight end)
- Jonathan Sutherland (sophomore, safety)
Gillikin is the only returning team captain this year. The standout punter holds Penn State’s record for yards per punt (42.33) and season punting average (43.95) and is the only player in Penn State history to record three punts of more than 70 yards, all of which came in 2018.
Newly-named starting quarterback Sean Clifford also comes in as a team captain. Clifford gained valuable experience playing behind Trace McSorley last season and will act as leader of the team once the season begins. He completed five of his seven pass attempts for 195 yards and two touchdowns in his small sample of play.
Linebackers Cam Brown and Jan Johnson are both new captains this year. Brown led the team with three forced fumbles in 2018 and recorded 63 total tackles. Johnson, on the other hand, recorded five or more tackles in nine games in his first season as a starter. The middle linebacker’s single-game high in tackles came when he made 11 against Appalachian State.
Senior safety Garret Taylor is a no-brainer choice for captain. The standout defensive back finished his junior season with three interceptions and 71 total tackles, including a huge interception in Penn State’s 27-26 loss to Ohio State last year. Taylor is joined by fellow safety Jonathan Sutherland, who’s projected to be the first safety off the bench in 2019. Sutherland recorded 38 tackles in 2018 and a forced fumble on a punt return against Indiana.
Offensive lineman Michal Menet is the lone junior captain this time around. Menet started 12 games at center for the Nittany Lions in 2018 and is poised to become the “quarterback for the offensive line” heading into the 2019 season. The veteran offensive lineman’s presence also helped Penn State finish 16th nationally in red zone offense this past year.
Tight end Pat Freiermuth earned captaincy following an impressive 2018 season in which he hauled in 26 receptions for 368 yards and scored a team-leading eight touchdowns — the most for a freshman tight end in Penn State history. His impressive debut season earned freshman All-American honors from ESPN and 247Sports as well as honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors.
2019 seems to break a trend for Penn State football, which usually named just three captains per season (one on offense, defense, and special teams). No reason has been provided for the apparent change.
Penn State’s newest captains will lead the team onto the field for the first time when the Nittany Lions open the season against Idaho on Saturday, August 31.