Heisman hopeful Saquon Barkley, Penn State out to prove last year was no fluke

Heisman hopeful Saquon Barkley, Penn State out to prove last year was no fluke

STATE COLLEGE, Pa.  -- Two years ago, James Franklin urged Penn State fans to be patient. He and his players believed a plan was in motion.

That patience wore thin through back-to-back 7-6 seasons, but paid off last season. After shaking off a slow start, the Nittany Lions won nine straight games, including a come-from-behind victory in the Big Ten championship game that put them within reach of a playoff berth.

"Last year's last year, and this year's this year," Franklin said. "We want to take all those experiences and maturity that we gained from last year and then continue growing and evolving."

That's been a theme since Franklin took over a program then reeling from NCAA sanctions and reduced scholarship numbers.

Back then, Franklin committed to playing handfuls of freshmen. Now, players who were vaunted recruits at the time have formed a core of grizzled veterans who are primed to take the next step.

But the Nittany Lions have more than just experience going for them.

Nine starters, including dynamic running back Saquon Barkley, return to an offense that was among the country's most explosive down the stretch. Six defensive starters are back to take cues from rising defensive coordinator Brent Pry and juniors and sophomores return who all have logged meaningful time or swapped starts during Franklin's tenure. Newly arriving freshmen are looking to earn a job right away, giving this camp a much more competitive feel than last season.

That's what Franklin wants.

"If you go into practice and you're screwing up, making mistakes, guys are going to pass you," linebacker Jason Cabinda said. "It's no longer a point where you have the first team and then with the second team there's a drop off and then the third team after that is a bigger drop off. We have guys on the second and third teams that the coaches feel really good about playing."

Barkley's World
Everyone from coaches to teammates to Heisman Trophy prognosticators feel good about Barkley.

His 2,572 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns over the past two years have usually come via spectacular runs and he could turn similar numbers into the school's second Heisman win. Running back John Cappelletti won it in 1973.

"It's something that I can truly say, we're not really thinking about with each play," offensive tackle Andrew Nelson said. "The thing we do think about is the fact that if we can do our job every play, it's not if or when he's going to make a big play, it's he will make a big play."

Trace's Space
Quarterback Trace McSorley quickly emerged as a dangerous player last season, not only for an ability to extend plays or smart decision-making, but for his downfield throwing ability few teams were prepared for.

Expect more from McSorley in Year 2 of Joe Moorhead's no-huddle offense.

The usually reserved Moorhead grew offended at suggestions he heard in the offseason that McSorley's efforts were flukey. In fact, his system is much more nuanced than it might've looked when McSorley was picking on safeties over the top.

"A kid couldn't lead the league in multiple passing categories and set school single season records and be on the verge of multiple other school records if he was just throwing the ball indiscriminately down the field," Moorhead said.

Turning the Corner
The secondary lost its best cover cornerback when John Reid suffered a serious knee injury in the spring. Reid, who played more snaps than any Nittany Lion last season, was expected to lead a secondary that was returning mostly intact.

While Franklin hasn't ruled Reid out for the season, he doesn't seem close to returning. Reid took an internship for the summer and was still in Oregon fulfilling it when camp began.

Pry has options, however. Christian Campbell has started when others have been hurt and adds length opposite Grant Haley, one of the team's most experienced and cerebral players.

Line Games
This team is built to withstand injuries in bunches. It proved it last season when all three starting linebackers were out early and both starting offensive tackles were hurt late.

As a result, more offensive linemen like Connor McGovern got playing time and Penn State enters 2017 with a legit two-deep that could potentially be mixed and matched with potential for success.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions would benefit from a bonafide pass-rusher to emerge. Torrence Brown and Shareef Miller are the frontrunners, but have had to earn reps behind older players up until this year.

Penn State commit arrested for armed robbery of Wawa

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AP Images

Penn State commit arrested for armed robbery of Wawa

This post appeared on College Football Talk on Saturday

Or will that be former Penn State recruit?

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Isheem Young was one of three individuals arrested Friday in connection with the armed robbery of a Wawa convenience store in South Philadelphia this past summer. One of the two alleged accomplices is Young’s brother, the manager of the store that was robbed, while the other an unnamed getaway driver.

The Inquirer reports that the 18-year-old Young is facing charges of robbery, conspiracy, firearms violations and related offenses. He is currently being held in lieu of a $150,000 bond.

It’s alleged that Young and his partners in crime made off with $13,600 in cash from the store’s safe. A police report stated that Young entered the store armed with a black revolver and committed the robbery.

Young committed to play his college football at Penn State in mid-July; two weeks later is when he allegedly committed the crime. He was 17 years old when the incident happened.

A four-star 2018 recruit, he’s rated as the No. 12 safety in the country, the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Pennsylvania and the No. 151 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.

The new early-signing period for college football, incidentally, kicks off in less than three weeks.

Penn State can't get by Khalil Iverson, Wisconsin

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USA Today Images

Penn State can't get by Khalil Iverson, Wisconsin

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The last 48 hours weren't easy for the Wisconsin Badgers who had all day Sunday plus a long flight into Happy Valley on Monday to stew over their worst home loss in nearly a decade.

Penn State nearly extended that misery, but a potential go-ahead 3-pointer by Tony Carr bounced off the rim with two seconds to play and the Badgers held on for a 64-63 win.

"It's nice to see a bounce back and look like a Wisconsin team should look," Badgers coach Greg Gard said.

Khalil Iverson scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half, Nate Reuvers added 11 points and Ethan Happ grabbed 10 rebounds for the Badgers (4-5, 1-1 Big Ten), who snapped a two-game losing streak.

Mike Watkins scored a career-high 22 points for the Nittany Lions (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) who battled back from a 17-point deficit with 9:40 to play. Carr added 16 points and Shep Garner made 13 for the Nittany Lions who were trying for their first 2-0 start in conference play since 2007.

Penn State played its third game, and first at home, in six days and struggled to shoot the ball for most of the night. The Nittany Lions made just 9 of 26 field goals in the first half, trailed 31-25 at halftime and were just 3-for-21 over the final 1:50 of the first and the first 10 minutes of the second.

"We dug a little deeper because we looked very sluggish in the first half," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.

The Badgers led 51-36 with 9:40 to play, but Garner drained back-to-back jumpers shortly thereafter to spark a 21-9 run that cut Wisconsin's lead to 60-57 with 1:53 left.

A pair of Garner free throws with less than a minute to play made it a one-point game before the teams traded free throws over the final 43 seconds. D'Mitrik Trice closed it out at the line on 4-of-4 shooting for the Badgers.

"I knew we'd have to be really dialed-in and gritty and persevere," Gard said. "I expected the whole game to be like the last four minutes and fortunately we were able to make enough plays and get enough stops to hang on."

Built Ford tough
Carr got his shot after forward Aleem Ford bounced the game's final free throw off the rim on the other end of the floor. He didn't get another chance thanks in part to Ford's hustle to get back on defense.

When Carr's shot rang off the rim, it took a bounce toward a Penn State player in the corner. Ford grabbed hold of the ball to force a jump ball and prevent the Nittany Lions from getting any kind of chance.

Ford's late recovery came in the absence of usual post presences Happ and Davison, who both had fouled out.

"He really hustled for that loose ball," Gard said. "There were a lot of winning plays, so to speak that were made. "We need to make better decisions down the stretch so that it doesn't get to that point."

Trusting Carr
Chambers had no issue with Carr, who was just 5-for-22 from the field, pulling up for the final 3-pointer even though Penn State's crafty point guard might've had room toward the hoop.

The clock was ticking and Chambers trusts his leading scorer who entered the game with 20.6 points per game, 39 assists and 19-for-32 from 3-point range.

"Whatever Tony thought," Chambers said. "I'm not in his vision. I'm on the sideline. I don't know what he saw but he's a heck of a player and he makes really good decisions. So I'm going to trust that decision."

Tough stats to swallow
Wisconsin's bench chipped in 25 points to Penn State's one.

Meanwhile, of Penn State's 29 misses, 11 were layups that didn't fall.

The big picture
Wisconsin: The Badgers are the only team to have played four ranked opponents so far and were tied or within a basket with two minutes left in three of those games. They looked better than their record inside the Bryce Jordan Center, matching Penn State's physical play throughout and frustrating Penn State's shooters all night.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions continue to play solid defense, but those stingy efforts will be for nothing if Penn State's shooters continue to miss like they did early and midway through against the Badgers. Penn State finished 26 for 50 from the floor.

Up next
Wisconsin concludes a three-day trip through the Keystone State at Temple (4-2) on Wednesday.

Penn State hosts George Washington (4-4) on Saturday.