Penn State Athletics
Saquon Barkley (26) is expected to go early in the 2018 draft.

Penn State’s Saquon Barkley discusses thorny issue, basketball team signs 2 recruits and more

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This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Thursday, May 4. Let’s get started.

To play, or not to play?

Of course high draft picks should sit out non-College Football Playoff postseason games. Of course they should make business decisions, seeing as just about everyone else associated with college football does the same thing.

Only it’s not quite that simple. And Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, who might have to weigh the pros and cons of such a decision in December or January, underscored its complexity in a story written by’s Pete Thamel.

Thamel writes that Barkley was thinking out loud as he considered whether he would skip a lower-tier postseason game to preserve himself for the NFL draft, as LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey did last season.

Finally he said the following:

“I would have a hard time doing it. But I’m not going to sit here and say I would never do it. I don’t know. I could be in a situation next year where I have close to two broken ankles, God forbid, or something going on in my upper body and I can’t play in a game if I’m considering playing in the NFL.”

Certainly it appears that Barkley, who rushed for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2016, will be a high draft pick next spring. The Centre Daily Times surveyed 10 way-too-early 2018 mock drafts and found that he was listed as high as the second overall pick and no lower than 15th.

But that is, of course, barring major injury. And Thamel cites Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith and Michigan’s Jake Butt as examples of two players who cost themselves millions when they suffered bowl-game injuries the last two seasons.

Were Barkley in the same situation that faced Fournette and McCaffrey last season, there would undoubtedly be folks advising him to sit – folks who would stand to gain from his big NFL contract.

But there would be others who would remind Barkley about his obligations to his teammates, and that is no small consideration – particularly for a player who always appears to be interested in the greater good, as he does.

Lions coach James Franklin articulated the argument for Thamel:

“I don’t mean this as a knock to any of these guys [i.e., Fournette and McCaffrey], but especially at the running back position, you didn’t get there by yourself. Those offensive linemen had a big part of your success. Those tight ends and quarterbacks had a big part of your success.”

In a vacuum, you sit every time and save yourself for NFL riches. But this just in: The game isn’t played in a vacuum. There are plenty of other factors to consider.

Jamari Wheeler, John Harrar sign National Letters of Intent

PSU basketball commits Jamari Wheeler and John Harrar signed National Letters of Intent Wednesday, swelling Pat Chambers’ recruiting class to three. Forward Trent Buttrick signed with the Lions in April.

Wheeler, a 6-foot point guard from The Rock School in Live Oak, Fla., committed to Duquesne last September but reopened his recruitment in March. He averaged 16 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 steals a game last season, according to the Gainesville Sun, and is expected to back up Tony Carr for the Lions.

The 6-8 Harrar, a forward from Strath Haven High School in suburban Philadelphia, originally committed to Army football as a tight end. He averaged 19.5 points and 10.4 rebounds last season.

Poignant moment

Lions passing game coordinator and tight ends coach Ricky Rahne summarized the thrill of parenting and the (sometimes) agony of his job when he tweeted a video of his 5-year-old son, Jake, getting his first hit in a coach-pitch game – an occasion Rahne had to miss because he was on the road.

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