Pondering Saquon Barkley’s pro potential, Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf earn top seeds at NCAAs, and more

We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Penn State sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, wrestling, hockey, baseball or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.

This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Thursday, March 9. Let’s get started.

Another Saquon salute

Donnie Collins of the Scranton Times-Tribune raised an interesting question Wednesday: Could junior running back Saquon Barkley be the best NFL prospect Penn State has ever produced?

Normally such queries are worthy of little consideration, because recency bias comes into play – i.e., the most recent player or team is accorded “best ever” status with little consideration given to those who came before.

But Collins makes a compelling case, beginning with the fact that Barkley created a buzz at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, one in which he obviously did not take part. Already there is talk that he will be a top-five pick in the 2018 draft.

Then there was the Penn State video showing him running a 4.33 in the 40. While Collins writes that that might not be legit, since it was hand-timed, he does add that Barkley was clocked at 4.38 last season.

In addition to that, he squatted 495 pounds seven times and power-cleaned 395 pounds last year, the latter a PSU record for a man his size.

He is obviously productive, having rushed for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns this past season, and catching 28 passes for 402 yards and four scores.

So yes, there is a case to be made.

And remember, Collins was not talking about the best pros PSU has ever produced. That’s a totally different argument, and includes guys like Jack Ham and Scranton’s own Mike Munchak, not to mention Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell and others.

But as far as having the most intriguing set of measurables, Barkley has to be right there.

Retherford, Nolf earn top seeds

PSU’s Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf, undefeated this season and coming off Big Ten championships, have earned top seeds in the NCAA Wrestling Championships, March 16-18 in St. Louis.

Six other Penn State wrestlers enter the tournament seeded among the top five in their weight classes, according to a university news release, as the Lions seek their sixth NCAA title in seven years.

Retherford (23-0), a junior, is the top seed at 149 pounds, and will be seeking to defend his national title of a year ago. Nolf (22-0), a sophomore, is No. 1 at 157 pounds.

In addition, sophomore Bo Nickal (21-1) is No. 2 at 184 pounds, after reaching the finals last year at 174.

Two wrestlers – freshman 125-pounder Nick Suriano (16-3) and redshirt freshman 165-pounder Vincenzo Joseph (17-4) – are seeded third in their weight classes.

Freshman 174-pounder Mark Hall (26-3), junior 197-pounder Matt McCutcheon (18-4) and sophomore 285-pounder Nick Nevills (20-3) are all seeded fifth.

The only PSU wrestler who is not seeded is senior 141-pounder Jimmy Gulibon (14-10).

Lions advance

Mike Watkins had 18 points, 11 rebounds and a Big Ten Tournament-record eight blocked shots in a 76-67 overtime victory over Nebraska on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

The Lions (15-17), who snapped a five-game losing streak, will face Michigan State (18-13) on Thursday.

The Cornhuskers (12-19) erased a nine-point deficit in the final 7:37 to force overtime, but the Lions’ Lamar Stevens opened the scoring in the extra period with a 3-pointer, and PSU never looked back.

Stevens and Shep Garner finished with 16 points each, and Tony Carr accumulated 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

Here are the Big Ten Network’s postgame interviews with Watkins and Garner.

Also in the Land of 10