As expected it was the Micah Parsons and Jayson Oweh show Thursday as eight former Nittany Lions took part in the program’s Pro Day in front of scouts, head coach and NHL executives.
The event effectively took the place of the NFL’s annual scouting combine – which will not happen in person this year due to COVID-19. As a result, testing proved to be a far more important aspect of the day’s proceedings than in years past as Parsons and Oweh, among other draft hopefuls, looked to show off their speed and agility for the first time in front of scouts.
For Parsons – who sat out the 2020 season – it was the first time in over a year in front of the cameras.
The defensive duo is expected to be Penn State’s two highest draft choices this year with Parsons coming in as high as a Top 10 pick according to some draft boards. Oweh is generally seen as a second round option, but a good showing on Thursday might do just enough to push him into the late first round.
Whether or not Oweh boosted his stock enough will be a question answered when the draft finally arrives on April 29, but the speedy defensive end certainly showcased his much hyped athleticism, topping out with a 4.36 hand-time 40-yard dash, just .03 seconds better than Parsons.
‘”I knew I could bring that out of him,” Parsons said of Oweh, the two’s long-standing rivalry in the 40-yard dash coming to a head Thursday.
For Parsons it was the first time in quite some time that Penn State fans have seen the heralded linebacker taking part in dills. While the former five-star prospect certainly lived up to the hype during his career at Penn State, fans were hopeful to see the best yet from Parsons in 2020 who instead opted to sit out the season due to COVID-19. Had Parsons returned he would have likely been seen as the best defensive player in America, if not among the Top 5 in consideration for such a subjective title.
Although as Parsons noted following his workout, he nearly did return once the Big Ten announced it would in fact play.
“The Big Ten, you know, they had an unknown on the season,” Parsons said. “With COVID spiking I thought there was a chance that they would cancel it again. Honestly, I did want to come back, but my family made the decision that it was already too late and I was already training. I’ve just been training since September all the way out to now and I’m just glad that this whole training this it over.”
In turn, Parsons leaves Penn State having made 14 tackles, two forced fumbles, two pass deflections and three tackles for a loss in his final game wearing the Blue and White in Penn State’s win over Memphis in the Cotton Bowl following the 2019 season.
It was a productive day elsewhere for other Nittany Lions as offensive lineman Will Fries had a solid showing in addition to Oweh’s defensive end counterpart Shaka Toney who ran faster than expected and tested well across the board. Toney by all statistical measures had a better career than Oweh while at Penn State, although the interest surrounding his draft stock is far more tempered.
“You can’t compete with freaks of nature,” Toney said of Parsons and Oweh. “You just got to let it be. You got to compete with yourself. I’ve been knowing Micah since he was in high school. I’ve known Jayson since he was a freshman, and they’ve been doing these things. At the end of the day, making plays, I’m just as good as them. I can do anything they can do. Testing, this is how the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
Toney revealed following his workout that he had been sick with COVID-19 earlier in the year and had lost roughly 20 pounds in the process.
On the injury front, tight end Pat Freiermuth had a light day only catching passes, still two weeks out from being cleared for contact following shoulder surgery according to Freiermuth.
Safety Lamont Wade was also in on the quick party, posting a 4.47 time in the 40 but posting the second slowest time in the L-cone drill.