Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is rushing his way onto the national college football map. He’s also running towards his place in the 2018 NFL Draft conversation. Currently, the spark-plug for #5 Penn State’s offense is projected to be a top 15-top 20 back in ’18 and the number one back off the board.
He is the keystone state school’s primary weapon, a big reason that QB Trace McSorely was able to shatter Matt McGloin’s school record for single season passing yards.
Saquon Barkley is also making a fierce run at the Big Ten Conference football individual awards, having claimed the Otto Graham–Eddie George Offensive Player of the Year, and Alan Ameche–Ron Dayne Running Back of the Year Awards.
Barkley was also First Team All-Big Ten and one of four finalists for the yet to be awarded Silver Football, which goes to the B1G MVP. You got to think that Barkley is as much a front-runner as any of the four other finalists.
The rise of Saquon Barkley is like the rise of McSorley and Head Coach James Franklin. No one saw this coming.
“Why not us, why not us,” Barkley said in an on field interview following Penn State’s upset win over Wisconsin in the B1G Title game.
Barkley scored the game tying touchdown for the Nittany Lions on the ground, and also caught the go ahead, and ultimately decisive, score through the air as well. He rushed 19 times for 83 yards and caught two passes for 20 yards. While McSorely was the game’s MVP, Barkley was probably the MVP runner-up.
Saquon Barkley broke the Penn State sophomore season rushing yards record with 1,302 on the season. He passed the mark of 1,236 yards set by Evan Royster in 2008. Barkley’s now in 10th place at Penn State for single season rushing. He trails Rodney Kinlaw (1,329 yards, 2007) for ninth place, and should easily surpass that versus USC in the Rose Bowl.
After just two seasons, he’a already in 14th place at Penn State, tied with Lenny Moore.
Barkley’s 16 TDs this season ranks seventh place in the Penn State record book. At B1G Championship Media Day, James Franklin was asked to give a “refresher” on Barkley and to reiterate the story of how he recruited the tailback.
“Yeah, he was committed to another Big Ten school before we got the job,” Franklin said.
“Then we showed up and felt like he was a guy we couldn’t let leave the state. I played at a Division II school in the state called East Stroudsburg. My best wide receiver and deep threat, Dennis McWhite, was his position coach in high school. So That helped. I probably should have thrown him the ball a few more times in college. But that helped.”
“Obviously once we were able to kind of get to know him, his guidance counselors, his high school coach, his parents, it just made sense. It just made sense for him and his family to stay close to home. He had a chance to get a world-class education, play football and stay close to home. It made sense.”
“It’s worked out well for us. He had a great senior year in high school and has been able to translate that into the Big Ten, is really doing well.”
“I’m really proud of him, as good as he’s doing on the football field, he’s doing just as well in the classroom. He’s probably doing better in the community. He’s been great when it comes to community service, how he’s handled all this success that’s happened so quickly for him. He’s handled it better probably than any young player I’ve ever been around,” Franklin continued.
And the NFL scouts are taking notice too. The running back position is coming back in vogue now. LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook could and should be top 15 overall picks this April.
Yes, it’s early, very early, but Saquon Barkley could be in the same conversation a year ahead from that point.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes regularly to the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye publication and Bold Global.
He also consistently appears on numerous radio and television talk shows all across the country. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and Sound Cloud.
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