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Penn State Opponent Player Watch: Saquon Barkley

The all-purpose running back is the Nittany Lion’s Weapon X

Penn State v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Saquon Barkley is arguably the best running back/player in college football. He is explosive, elusive, and electrifying to watch on the gridiron due to his dynamic play-making abilities . His stats are sublime with 1761 all-purpose yards, 864 rush yards, 504 receiving yards, and 15 touchdowns, including one through the air. He’s very dangerous in every area on the field including special teams, where he ran back 97-yard kickoff return against Ohio State. Saquon Barkley will likely be a top ten pick in the NFL due to his size, speed, and high football IQ.

Akron v Penn State Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

What makes Saquon Barkley intriguing to the Rutgers’ fan base is that he was once a Rutgers commit. If he had actually signed, it could have been a potential power move for Rutgers, who entered the Big Ten the same year. Saquon Barkley verbally committed to Rutgers, but reneged that promise to flip for rival Penn State. Barkley somewhat regrets on how he handled the recruiting process by stating to Ryan Dunleavy of NJ Advance Media in this article:

"It was one of the hardest things I've had to do. I felt like I was going against my word, and that's something that I was raised on, that my family raised me on. They felt like we were going against our word, too. But we had to look at the bigger picture."

Saquon Barkley will always be a player that Rutgers fans will always ponder, “what if he was a Scarlet Knight”. Nonetheless, it seems like Saquon Barkley made the best decision at the time for his football career. Penn State won the Big Ten championship in 2016 and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl in which they fell to USC 52-49 in a January Bowl classic. Barkley also earned and accomplished many awards and achievements including:

2× Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week (2017)

AP Third Team All-American — 2016

Sporting News All-American second team — 2016

Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year — 2016

Big Ten Running Back of the Year — 2016

All-Big Ten First team — 2016

All-Big Ten Second team — 2015

Penn State Records

Most rushing yards by a freshman — 1,076 yards

Most rushing yards by a sophomore — 1,496 yards

Most total yards in a single game — 358 yards

First player to score a return and passing touchdown in the same game


Saquon Barkley will be very difficult to stop. The combination of speed and size will give Rutgers plenty of trouble. He’s also dangerous as a wideout who can extend plays for first downs. If Rutgers wants to win this game, they must neutralize Saquon Barkley and limit his progression on the field. This means the defensive line must attack between the tackles and guard, so Barkley can not bounce to the outside for big gains. His ability and vision is on a pro-level where he can make plays in small spaces. Key on stopping Saquon Barkley is limiting his opportunities to hit the hole or to have enough space to create a play. Run blitzes can rattle Barkley’s rhythm and Rutgers’ defense must stay discipline with their assignments to contain him.

Rutgers offense can play defense too. The Rutgers running game has been very potent recently, averaging 167.4 yards, with senior running back Gus Edwards leading the way with 630 yards and 6 touchdowns. If Rutgers can win the time of possession, then they have a chance to compete against Penn State in this game by limiting Barkley’s time on the field. Saquon Barkley is also a great decoy, which allows Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley to utilize play action/read option for a deep pass or scramble for big chunks of yardage. Rutgers must stay focus throughout this entire game because it will be a daunting task to stop the play action or read option.

Penn State v Northwestern
Barkley is the best decoy on offense. PSU loves the play action/read option. Expect many plays like this on Saturday.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Saquon Barkley is the most talented player in the B1G. This will be a challenge for the Scarlet Knights’ defense and special teams. Expect dynamic plays and high usage of Barkley on Saturday in Happy Valley. He is “Weapon X”.