ShareThis Page

James Franklin: Penn State won't force the football into Saquon Barkley's hands

| Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, 8:36 p.m.
EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 04: Saquon Barkley #26 of the Penn State Nittany Lions tries to escape the tackle of Joe Bachie #35 of the Michigan State Spartans during the first half at Spartan Stadium on November 4, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Getty Images
EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 04: Saquon Barkley #26 of the Penn State Nittany Lions tries to escape the tackle of Joe Bachie #35 of the Michigan State Spartans during the first half at Spartan Stadium on November 4, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Though he continues to be one of the most electrifying college football players in the country, Penn State's Saquon Barkley has seen not only his numbers drop over the last five games, but also his frontrunner status, in some circles, in the competition for the Heisman Trophy.

Barkley has seen opposing defenses load up on a weekly basis to try to stop him. After averaging 130 yards rushing in his first four games, the 230-pound junior has gained just 69.2 yards per game on the ground in his last five. He has dropped to 28th nationally in FBS rushing with 864 yards and 31st in average yards at 96.0 per game.

After being the leading candidate for the Heisman for weeks, he was dropped this week to second (3/2 odds) by Bovada, the Las Vegas online gambling site, behind Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (4/7), who threw for 596 yards and five touchdowns last week. Barkley is third in ESPN.com's Heisman Watch behind Mayfield and Stanford running back Bryce Love.

But teammate DeAndre Thompkins, said Barkley cares more about the team than about his numbers.

“He knows that you're not going to have a breakout game every game,” Thompkins, a receiver, said Tuesday. “He knows that the type of player he is, teams are going to set out to stop him. One thing that I admire from him is he's a team player. He's not one of those guys that goes in and demands the ball.

“That's one thing he handles very well. He knows he's not the only piece to the puzzle, and he's willing to sacrifice for the success of the team.”

Coach James Franklin said he would love to have Barkley carry the football as much as possible, but it's difficult at times because of the defense.

“We're not going to run him into looks that aren't good looks,” he said. “Obviously if we have some things called for him to get the ball out of the backfield and people are covering him, then we're not going to force the ball to him.

“This isn't about creating stats for one person. It's about finding the best ways to win. This is a chess game, and the defense is going to try to do things to take things away from you, and you need to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that that scheme or that style presents.”

After leading in all-purpose yards for much of the season, Barkley is second this week behind San Diego State's Rashad Penny. Franklin said the team's approach has been to have Barkley contribute as a receiver and kick returner.

“Saquon's one of the better football players, if not the best football player, I've ever been around,” he said. “He's able to be explosive in so many different ways, and that's what we want to do. We want to get the ball into his hands a lot of different ways, and I think that gives us the best opportunity to be successful.”

Note: Franklin said he hopes defensive end Ryan Buchholz, who was injured against Ohio State and didn't make the trip to Michigan State, will be back “sooner rather than later.” The program has not disclosed the nature of his injury, nor the injury to offensive tackle Ryan Bates, whose status is uncertain.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.