Saquon Barkley is a popular guy around these parts, but lately he’s been generating some national attention thanks to jaw-dropping performances that’ve helped put Penn State in the College Football Playoff picture.
The young running back burst onto the scene last fall when opportunity came knocking and he hasn’t looked back since. Barkley is on pace to break all of Penn State’s rushing records and is already being mentioned in the same conversation with other great Nittany Lions like Curt Warner, Franco Harris, and Evan Royster.
Following his rise to stardom on the field in 2015, Barkley showed what a full offseason in the weight room could do for his preparation. The running back was able to squat a tremendous amount of weight at 495 lbs and then he seemed to break the Internet after a video of him power-cleaning 390 lbs went viral. Those numbers are frightening, especially when you consider Barkley’s youth. Couple that with a 40-yard dash time in the high 4.3s and you have an explanation for some of the otherworldly feats Barkley’s managed to accomplish.
Before diving into the impressive numbers Barkley’s posted so far, it’s important to remember he’s still a true sophomore with at least three games left to play this year. He’ll at least have one more season in State College, if not two, depending on whether or not he leaves early for the NFL.
In 2015, Barkley played in 11 of Penn State’s 13 games and was still able to post eye-popping numbers. In those 11 contests, he rushed the ball 182 times for 1076 yards and seven touchdowns. Realistically, Barkley only saw significant snaps in nine of 13 games last season due to an injury he sustained against San Diego State and still eclipsed 1,000. His yards-per-carry average checked in at an impressive 5.9 on the year.
When you look at Penn State’s all-time leading rushing charts, you’ll find Evan Royster atop the list with 3,932 yards. If you you look at the Nittany Lions’ leader in rushing touchdowns, you’ll find another Penn State great and College Football Hall of Famer in Lydell Mitchell, who finished his career with 38.
As it stands currently, Barkley has 2,189 yards on the ground and has reached the end zone 20 times in just 21 games. Assuming he stays healthy and returns for his senior year, Barkley will have at least another 28 games in the blue and white, although there’s a good chance he rides his high draft stock and cashes in at the professional level.
Through Royster’s first two years with the Lions he piled up 1,749 yards; remarkably, Barkley has already broken that mark with four games to go this season. Now, let’s assume he finishes the season with 1,500 yards, which is definitely an attainable mark. Barkley is on pace to match and likely eclipse Royster’s record given the tremendous progress he’s made. In the end, it is more than realistic that the Pennsylvania native finishes with more than 5,000 career rushing yards if he remains in Happy Valley for another season after 2017. If Barkley eclipses the 5,000-yard mark, that will put him the national top 20 in career rushing yards.
Scoring-wise, Barkley is eerily reminiscent of Royster in his penchant for reaching the end zone. As previously mentioned, Barkley’s scored a combined 20 rushing touchdowns in two seasons. He only needs three more scores to eclipse Royster’s mark of 23 after his junior season. Royster would only score six more touchdowns his senior year, putting him at 29. Through two years, Barkley is well on his way to edging out one of the best running backs Penn State’s ever had. There’s a great chance he beats Royster’s mark next season, and no telling what he could do if he stays around another year.
In the end, Barkley has a real chance to leave Happy Valley as the most accomplished running back in school history. He’s been integral to the team’s success thus far, and could further propel the 8-2 Nittany Lions forward with more Heisman-worthy outputs.