Penn State’s Saquon Barkley sheds light on his future; Nittany Lions hope to jumpstart pass rush
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.
Will he or won’t he?
Saquon Barkley has a multi-million dollar decision to make and he may very well take all the allotted time to make it.
Barkley met with the assembled media at the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday and told reporters he isn’t sure if he will turn pro or return for his senior season, according to ESPN’s Dan Murphy.
Barkley told Murphy he may wait until the last possible minute, the Jan. 15th deadline, to declare for the draft.
He could opt to return and chase the all-time Penn State rushing record, currently held by Evan Royster (he is 226 yards behind Royster), or he could bolt for the NFL, where most experts, including Walter Football, have Barkley pegged as a top-five pick.
Land of 10’s Sean Keeler says Barkley is planning on making the most of his time, however much of it, remaining at Penn State.
The need to rush
If Penn State is going to slow down Washington’s potent offense in theSaturday’s Fiesta Bowl, they will need the pass rush to step it up.
John McGonigal of the Centre Daily Times writes that defensive end Shareef Miller and company know they have to ramp it up if Penn State is to win.
That lack of pass rush can’t happen again on Saturday, and defensive end Shareef Miller doesn’t think it will.
Penn State struggled in games at Ohio State and Michigan State this season, and barely touched USC’s Sam Darnold a season ago in the Rose Bowl loss. Penn State did not register a hurry in the loss to USC.
If quarterback Trace McSorley ended his Penn State career prior to kickoff against Washington, he would arguably be a top two or three all-time at the school.
But McSorely is far from done, and likely will add to his legacy during his senior year. As Philly.com’s Joe Juliano writes, McSorley is finishing his second season as a starter strong and proving he is a winner.
MORE: Want this roundup in your inbox every morning? Sign up here
McSorley and his Washington counterpart Jake Browning will be opponents on Saturday, but they are sharing a similar cause off the field.
Both are heavily involved in the non-profit organization Uplifting Athletes, a program that raises money for rare diseases, writes Jeff Metcalfe of AZCentral.com
The organization was started and is run by former Penn State player Scott Shirley and has grown from a small venture in central Pennsylvania to a nationwide entity that has chapters on nearly every major campus across the country.
In fact, as Metcalfe points out, during a 2016 leadership conference in Chicago, McSorley and Browning roomed together at the event.
Put a stamp on it
Penn State’s rise from the ashes of NCAA sanctions needs validation. In the first year under coach James Franklin, the NCAA lifted the bowl band and Penn State won a thrilling Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College.
Since then, a setback to Georgia, a playoff miss and loss to USC and now a season in which the Nittany Lions were ranked in the top three, seemed to be a playoff lock, but plummeted after road losses in consecutive weeks.
So the rise back to national prominence needs validation, writes the York Daily Record’s Frank Bodani.
McSorley will certainly look for big tight end Mike Gesicki against the Huskies defense.
Washington knows the risks matching up against the 6-foot-6 Gesicki and they are ready to meet Gesicki head on, writes Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Gesicki has 51 receptions and nine touchdowns this season.
Cornerback John Reid hasn’t played a down this season, after tearing his ACL in spring practice.
Projected to be the Nittany Lions top cover man, Reid has been helping the team in anyway he can this season. That’s included staying involved in film prep and game-planning writes Andrew Rubin of the Daily Collegian.
“I just try to help guys with the little things that they may not be noticing or doing,” Reid said. “Just little tiny mistakes, or something that I can help them speed up their game or their timing.”
Cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said Reid helping out has been a big asset to his position group.
Reid expects to return to the field for spring practice and the Blue White game in 2018.