Penn State’s New Offensive Weapon: Saquon Barkley
Back on Sept. 5 against Temple, the Penn State offense was in disarray. Christian Hackenberg didn’t look like a projected first round pick, and the only bright spot for the team itself was their defense. Just when you thought that would be the story for another week, in came running back Saquon Barkley, Penn State’s true freshman running back. He put up 115 yards on 12 carries against Buffalo and has shown to be an explosive force.
Not only that, but he returned the following week with a 195 yards on 21 carries against Rutgers. His 195 yards marked the most rushing yards in a game by a Penn State player since Bill Belton rushed for 201 yards in 2013 game against Illinois, and the most by a Lions' true freshman since Eric McCoo logged 206 yards in 1998. Amongst all this, Barkley has received Big Ten Freshman of The Week honors two weeks in a row.
Barkley has helped take the ball out of Hackenberg’s hands, and as much as some may hate to admit it, ig is actually for the betterment of the team. Barkley has helped transform the offense, and open up other opportunities for his teammates. Instead of focusing on Hackenberg throwing the ball almost 30 times a game, teams must now prepare for the run with not only him, but also teammate Akeel Lynch, who is having a great season in his own right.
Teammates and coaches have had nothing but praise for Barkley. Coach James Franklin said after their win against Rutgers, “I think Saquon brought something to our offense.”
Hackenberg congratulated him after the win and said, “[Barkley] did a great job. I’m so happy for him, he’s worked extremely hard and he’s got a very bright future.”
No one expected this 5’11, 222-pound freshman to do much this season, especially with Penn State already having Akeel Lynch in the backfield.
Hackenberg however, said that he saw the talent that Barkley had from back in training camp.
"When he got on campus, I'd see him in seven on sevens, throwing him the ball and watching what he does in space," he said. "As camp rolled on, you started seeing him get more and more comfortable within the running schemes and what we were asking him to execute. He's got a ton of ability and I think his mental approach is what takes him to the top."
We’ll see if Barkley can follow up his backtoback 100yard rushing performances with even more history in Penn State’s upcoming game against San Diego State.
Brandon Stewart is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.