What is the Next Step for Penn State’s Barkley?

Saquon Barkley
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (EYT) – Saquon Barkley burst on to the scene as a true freshman for Penn State last season rushing for over 1,000 yards while being named to three freshman All-American teams.

(Photo of  Saquon Barkley by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

So what’s the next step for the the soon-to-be sophomore?

“I think it’s knowledge,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said at his pre-spring practice media conference Monday. “Physically, you look at his size and strength and speed numbers, they are good. They are as good as anywhere in the country, college, or I would even say the NFL. He’s has the experience now He’s had some success. He’s met some challenges.

“So that the next step. It’s how can we continue to give him the reps that he needs to grow and develop. How can we get the game to slow down for him so he can play aggressive and be decisive in his pass protection and things like that. How does he anticipate when things are going to come? That’s really when you become more aggressive. That’s when you become more physical, and that’s when you actually play faster.”

Barkley, who tied D.J. Dozier’s true freshman rushing touchdown mark with seven while rushing for 1,076 yards, the most-ever by a freshman of any kind at Penn State, has been busy in his offseason training according to Franklin and has lost five pounds of fat while gaining 12 pounds of muscle. That added muscle helped him bench 390 pounds clean and run a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, according to Franklin.

But for Barkley to take the next step, those numbers need to translate to the football field.

“All these testing numbers are wonderful in the weight room and in Holuba,” Franklin said. “But how can we make sure that translates onto the field with him?”

A big part of Barkley being able to translate his testing numbers into added performance on the field will be just understanding football, according to Franklin.

“Understanding what cover two means, understanding zone blitzes and where they are coming from and why and really embracing and studying the game,” Franklin said. “That’s some of the stuff I love. We talk to our players all the time about controlling the controllable.

“So, I think that’s the next step for Saquon, to really become a student of the game and master all of those things so he can play fast and aggressive.”

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