Penn State running back Saquon Barkley didn’t take long to get some national attention once he arrived at Penn State. His performance as a freshman in a road game at Ohio State thrust the young running back’s name into the spotlight as he put on a show against the defending national champions in 2015. Barkley’s profile continued to rise last season as Penn State made a push for the Big Ten championship and his Rose Bowl performance was one for the ages.
This run alone is what has college football and NFL analysts drooling…
His first touchdown run of the game that got Penn State on the scoreboard wasn’t bad either, as he took advantage of a hole right up the middle of the field. Barkley is the most electrifying player Penn State has had since Ki-Jana Carter and the most well-known player on the national level perhaps since LaVar Arrington. And that is why you will see plenty of preseason hype for Barkley as a Heisman Trophy candidate and Doak Walker Award. My Top Sportsbooks says Barkley has a 6/1 chance to win the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back, which just one Nittany Lion has received since the award was first handed out in 1990 (Larry Johnson in 2002). Penn State has had some good running backs over the years, but Barkley is on his way to being recognized as the best running back Penn State has had in the Big Ten era (which is now going on 25 years).
Barkley really is that good, which is why he is being scouted as one of the top running backs that could be available next spring in the NFL Draft. Of course, that would mean Barkley would have to leave Penn State with a year of eligibility left on the table. Just like Christian Hackenberg, I think Penn State fans should brace for that scenario to play out. Barring a significant setback this season or serious injury, Barkley may very well be running his way to the NFL next spring. And I would not blame him one bit. Running backs have a short enough life span as it is in the NFL, and Penn State’s own Ki-Jana Carter is one of the textbook examples of that. It is financially wise to get paid as much as you can as early as you can. Risking a return to college as a senior may have no benefits for Barkley is the 2017 season goes as expected. There will be nothing left for him to prove and his stock may be as high as it can get. If he is projected to be a top 10 draft pick, Barkley pretty much has to go.
It’s true that running backs have seen a bit of a downward trend overall in the NFL Draft pecking order in recent years, but top running backs can still be a valued asset for a number of NFL teams. For example, I would not complain one bit about the Philadelphia Eagles getting their hand son Barkley if that is at all possible. Teams may be taking to the air more often every year, but a top-tier running back is still an important piece of the puzzle.
So enjoy Barkley while you can, Penn State fans, because he is likely to be on the move next spring and could leave behind quite the legacy that will be remembered for years to come. Savor every run he makes this season, because they may be the last you see in the Penn State blue and white.
Going into the 2017 college football season, Barkley is widely being regarded as one of the top running backs in the nation