Penn State football coach James Franklin joined ESPN’s broadcast of the Nittany Lions basketball team’s game against Mississippi State on Tuesday in the 2018 NIT semifinals. But it didn’t take him long to start talking football.
And former running back Saquon Barkley.
“He should be the No. 1 pick,” Franklin said of his former star’s NFL draft stock.
While it’s not exactly a hot take — Barkley is slated to go very early in the 2018 NFL Draft and was also perhaps Franklin’s best player to date at Penn State — the vote of confidence came with a convincing explanation of why.
“To me, not only are you looking for the rare athleticism that he has, but he’s a better character guy,” he told Bob Wischusen and Fran Fraschilla on ESPN.
He then added on why Barkley should go No. 1:
“It’s not just about Saquon, it’s the whole package. If you have a quarterback that you think is a generational-type quarterback and you’re sure of that, you’ve got to take the quarterback. But, if there’s question marks on those guys, and I haven’t studied them, but I can tell you in any business, in any industry, you’re trying to reduce risk. There’s no red flags on Saquon Barkley. There’s no red flags when it comes to body type or athleticism, comes to intelligence, comes to character on the field. There’s no concern. You don’t hear anybody say, ‘But this.'”
Franklin touched on a lot of other things as well, notably the basketball game he was watching.
“Pat’s [Chambers] become a really good friend. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the players as well,” Franklin said. “The two things I’m going to do, I’m going to recruit Shep’s [Garner] mom to come to all the football games because she’s unbelievable and I want to be out here to support these guys.”
And on freshman big man John Harrar, who had offers to play football at Army, among others:
“He doesn’t know this yet, he will be playing football as a fifth-year senior,” Franklin joked. “That’s all been decided.”
He also talked more about football, saying Trace McSorley is an athlete and a winner and that Franklin is blessed to have him as a quarterback.
“Him and Allen Iverson were the only two quarterbacks to take their teams to four state championships in football. That’s what we saw when we recruiting him.”
He also touched upon losing some other key players aside from Barkley, saying they’ve recruited well but they’re also a developmental program, citing recent combine performances.
He mentioned that Miles Sanders has skills to replace Barkley, but it’ll be a team effort with McSorley, wide receivers and what he thinks is his best offensive line since he’s been with the Nittany Lions.