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Miles Sanders will make his debut as Penn State's starting running back in the annual Blue-White Game on April 21st.

Penn State spring game details set; Nittany Lions in mix for several top recruits

Penn State football is the No. 1 topic in We are… Awake every day — but we cover news, notes and analysis from across Nittany Lions sports. Join us each morning to get caught up on everything you missed in the world of Penn State football, recruiting, basketball and more.

One bad loss, one big game

Normally we would start with football for this space, but the Penn State men’s basketball team has what amounts to a do-or-die game at Nebraska on Sunday to close out the regular season before heading to New York City for the Big Ten Tournament next week.

Penn State and Nebraska are two teams squarely on the bubble, in fact in his latest Bracketology, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Penn State among his first four teams out, and Nebraska in his next four teams out.

The game took on added importance with Penn State’s loss at home to Michigan on Wednesday. And now for the bad news. Nittany Lions starter Mike Watkins will not play Sunday, writes the Daily Collegian’s Vincent Lungaro.

Watkins was injured in the first half against the Wolverines while attempting to defend a layup. He appeared to be favoring his right leg and never returned to the game. The sophomore leads Penn State with 8.9 rebounds per game.

Set your alarms

The 2018 Penn State football team will debut with a mid-afternoon affair at Beaver Stadium. The university announced on Thursday that the annual Blue-White Game will be April 21, with kickoff at 3 p.m. ET.

Big Ten Network will televise the game.

Adding to the class

So far, Penn State has two commitments in its Class of 2019 — State College area cornerback Keaton Ellis and DePaul Catholic (Wayne, N.J.) quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson. But as Pennlive.com’s Greg Pickel writes, that could be changing very soon. Penn State is in on plenty of talent for its next crop of recruits, and one of those top recruits could be defensive end Brandon Smith from Virginia.

Pickel writes:

Despite the fact that he’s the No. 4 end in the country and a national target, Brandon Smith’s 247Sports’ Crystal Ball leans heavily toward the Nittany Lions, and his pair of visits to the school in 2017 do nothing to dispute that. The Lions are in the driver’s seat for the 6-foot-5, 215-pound talent from Mineral, Va., and he could also play linebacker at the next level.

Pickel adds that Penn State has 12 offers out to prospects in Texas. The Nittany Lions have made recruiting Southern states a clear emphasis, especially since coach James Franklin lured assistant Ja’Juan Seider away from Florida.

More JoeMo

Joe Moorhead’s impact on the Penn State program going forward will still be felt for the short term. Ricky Rahne stepping in as offensive coordinator is expected to keep many of the same schemes that Moorhead installed when he arrived three years ago.

And no doubt the Penn State fan base will keep an eye on what Moorhead does at Mississippi State, and likely second-guess letting him go if Rahne struggles. It’s nature of the beast.

The Hartford Courant’s Desmond Conner writes that Moorhead called his stint at UConn one of the best jobs he’s had and despite moving on from the Nittany Lions, he’s chasing something bigger now.

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High praise

Saquon Barkley has drawn a lot of praise and more certainly will come his way, but NFL.com might have had the highest of all, writes Centre Daily Times’ John McGonigal.

McGonigal points out that Barkley’s NFL.com draft profile compares him to one of the best running backs ever, Barry Sanders.

From NFL.com:

Every-down running back with the ability to alter the course of an offense and become a face of the franchise-type player. Barkley has the rare ability to create additional yardage through elusiveness, speed, vision and feel for space in the open field.

Barkley was listed as the No. 2 overall pick in ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft, released on Wednesday.

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