Penn State Athletics
Saquon Barkley is coming off a 1,496-yard rushing season in 2016.

Penn State’s Saquon Barkley viewed as ‘irreplaceable,’ plenty of points to ponder and more

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This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Thursday, May 25. Let’s get started.


Another Saquon Barkley salute

Ben Kercheval of CBSSports.com has pronounced Penn State running back Saquon Barkley the nation’s second-most irreplaceable player, behind only Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner.

It would be difficult to disagree. After all, Barkley generated 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground for the Nittany Lions in 2016, and he caught 28 balls for 402 yards and 4 more touchdowns.

As Kercheval wrote:

Barkley is as complete a runner as you’re going to find. He has size, power, vision, footwork, agility, burst, straight-line speed … all of it. He’s like if somebody started up ‘NCAA Football,’ went to Create A Player, selected running back and gave him all 99s. Barkley has the build and qualities of a power back, but he can turn defenders around in a phone booth and find creases like a smaller back. He is the truth.

In the interest of full disclosure, the caretaker of this space doesn’t exactly know what all that video-game stuff means. But it certainly sounds like something good.

As if on cue, ESPN.com’s Todd McShay tweeted video Wednesday of Barkley’s long touchdown run against Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl.

Last week, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report wrote that Barkley could be a better NFL prospect than Ohio State product Ezekiel Elliott, and added this tweet, which shows Barkley in full gallop against Purdue last season. (And note the mobility of offensive lineman Ryan Bates, as well.)


Salient points

Statecollege.com’s Ben Jones listed 10 points to ponder, with Penn State’s football season exactly 100 days away.

Among his questions: Will coach James Franklin get a contract extension before the season? (Possibly, but there doesn’t seem to be any rush.) Will offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead flee for a head-coaching position? (Somebody will make a run at him, but Penn State could make it worth his while to stick around.) Can Barkley win the Heisman Trophy? (Not out of the question, if he puts up better numbers against the better teams – and he should, given the apparent improvement of the offensive line.)

There was also this: What does success look like?

Or, to put it another way, what would the fans regard as a successful season, after last year’s Big Ten championship?

Jones conceded that it’s unwise for any team to expect to go undefeated, and said that if the Lions fall short of another conference title, the paying customers’ perception of the season likely will depend upon when and how the Lions lose.

It might be added that while Penn State has the talent to make another run at the Big Ten crown and perhaps something more the schedule looks more difficult than it did a year ago, particularly that Ohio State-Michigan-Michigan State stretch beginning in late October. It’s possible the Lions will be a better team than in 2016 but not have a better record to show for it.

And the asterisk, as always, is health. An injury to Barkley or quarterback Trace McSorley would be devastating. Nor can the Lions afford another year of ill health among their linebackers with the lack experienced depth in that positional group.


Zack Kuntz tabbed

Greg Pickel of Pennlive.com writes that Penn State commit Zack Kuntz, a 4-star tight end from Camp Hill, Pa., has earned an at-large invitation to The Opening, the Nike-sponsored showcase scheduled from June 28 to July 3 in Oregon.

Two other Nittany Lions recruits, running back Ricky Slade and wide receiver Justin Shorter, already received invitations. Another, quarterback Justin Fields, could join them if he emerges as one of the top performers at the Elite 11 camp next week in Los Angeles.


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