Penn State fans said goodbye to the seniors during Saturday’s 56-44 win over Nebraska at Beaver Stadium — so we decided to turn to our resident football experts for a final question at Beaver Stadium.
Which senior made the biggest impact on the Nittany Lions? It’ll be hard to forget any in this class because of how far they brought Penn State in the last few years, but some players and positions will be especially hard to move on from.
Here’s what they had to say:
John McGonigal: Safety Marcus Allen
It’s hard to go wrong with some of the guys available. While sure-handed DaeSean Hamilton is option 1B in my opinion, I’ll pick safety Marcus Allen.
Here’s a guy who’ll tally 46 starts and land firmly in the top-5 tacklers in Penn State history by the time his career comes to an end. Allen’s at No. 6 now, just a few away from overtaking Brian Gelzheiser at No. 5.
While his coverage skills haven’t been perfect, Allen has been as reliable as it gets as a run-stopper and instinctive presence on the defense.
Plus, Allen’s been the emotional driver of this team and program. His teammates have lauded for years his ability to be serious and lighten the mood when appropriate.
It’s something that might get overlooked, but Allen’s personality is irreplaceable.
Ryne Gery: Linebacker Jason Cabinda
Cabinda has been a fixture in the middle of Penn State’s defense since starting every game his sophomore season. He’s been one of the team’s leaders in addition to making plays every Saturday for the Nittany Lions.
He’s received recognition from the Big Ten coaches as a sophomore (all-conference honorable mention) and junior (third-team all-conference), and he became the latest to keep Penn State’s tradition as “LBU” alive.
And he’s putting together an impressive campaign to finish his career. The linebacker leads Penn State with 81 tackles this season after recording seven tackles in the win over Nebraska. He’s been a constant presence for the Nittany Lions — and it will be a challenge to replace his experience on the defense next season.
Josh Moyer: Tight end Mike Gesicki
You guys have seen this senior catch balls in the end zone, right? He’s maybe the best tight end in the country and, even if Penn State has a stable of talented young receivers, there’s still no replacing the best. (See: Barkley, Saquon.)
Gesicki is tied for the team lead in catches (46) and receiving touchdowns (7), and he has 466 receiving yards. He’s a mismatch waiting to happen. I’m not trying to downplay how valuable some others guys are — like Penn State’s career receptions leader (Hamilton) or Cabinda or Allen. But Gesicki has been the guy on offense who’s also stayed after practice, mentored the young players and has been a fiery leader.
Do I need to dig up his quote after the Pitt game? Because I think it’s my favorite Gesicki moment. He promised, after the 2016 loss, that that would never happen again. That wasn’t Penn State, he said. And he was right. He may not be the best blocker and he wasn’t a threat to turn a short touchdown into a 90-yard gain. But he’s been Mr. Consistent the last two seasons — and we may not see another tight end like Gesicki for more than a few seasons.