Penn State's Saquon Barkley tuning out hype, looking to do more

Penn State's Saquon Barkley tuning out hype, looking to do more

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Sometimes Joe Moorhead will call a play and then turn to his players and colleagues on the sideline to guarantee it'll go for a touchdown.

It's one of the ways Penn State's offensive coordinator like to lift his players' spirits. His predictions came true a lot last season. A play like Saquon Barkley's blistering, career-best 81-yard touchdown against Purdue come to Moorhead's mind.

"It's about instilling confidence in your players that any play you call has the opportunity to go the distance," Moorhead said. "When you hand the ball off to 26, you stand a chance to be right more often than not."

Barkley's dazzling running style complete with jukes, jumps and spins has propelled him for 3,209 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns in two seasons and vaulted him into preseason Heisman Trophy discussions. It's also why Moorhead plans to use his star back to wear down and saw up defenses even more this fall.

That's a bad prospect for Penn State's opponents who've been worn down and sawed up by Barkley's ability to break tackles, find daylight and pull away. It might be worse for them. Barkley's bigger, stronger and faster thanks to a productive offseason.

"Our coaching staff and our strength staff did a really good job pushing me," Barkley said. "I gained weight this year. I'm at 230 now. I feel faster. I ran a faster 40 than I did last year in the past. That's something I wanted to really add to my game because I feel like, when you do the weight room, it really translates to the football field."

Videos from inside the team's weight room of Barkley squatting nearly 500 pounds went viral last year. They were joined by clips of him power cleaning 405 pounds in January. In winter workouts he ran a hand-timed 4.33 in the 40 and in July he wowed spectators at a team charity event with 30 bench press reps of 225 pounds.

Those measure up favorably to numbers posted at the most recent NFL Combine. Oklahoma's Samaje Perine was the lone running back to bench 30 reps and Barkley's 4.33 would've been the fourth-best 40 time. Surely, the option of Barkley foregoing his final season at Penn State to jump to the NFL will loom throughout the season.

He was asked about it at the team's media day on Saturday.

"I have not made a decision yet," Barkley said. "I'm really just focusing on the season and focusing day by day. Right now my biggest focus is on camp."

Instead of thinking about the NFL, or the Heisman, which only one Nittany Lions player -- John Cappalletti in 1973 -- has won, Barkley has taken a similar approach to the last offseason when he spent time watching some of college football's other top backs on film.

Barkley, who caught four of his five receiving touchdowns last season, primarily wants to play a bigger role in the passing game. He's drilled with the team's top wideout and smoothest route-runner DaeSean Hamilton to learn new techniques.

"I feel that, and Coach (James) Franklin will agree, that I'm capable of being lined up in the slot, being able to run routes," Barkley said. "I do feel like I'm capable to do a lot with the ball in my hand in space, and I just want to continue to grow in that area."

But as Barkley's highlight reel has grown, he's remained grounded. Staying humble despite the expectations and hype that have swirled around him has endeared Barkley to his teammates.

When the Nittany Lions have strolled through town to meet fans and distribute posters each of the last two summers, Barkley has drawn the biggest crowd, huddles of kids and adults all with markers intent on getting No. 26's autograph.

"Since that hurdle in the Buffalo game, there's been a buzz about him," Franklin said. "And he's handled it really well, better than I would have ever handled it at that age. There's no doubt about it. And I think that's where he kind of has earned everybody's respect."

Jerry Sandusky denied new trial on child sex abuse charges

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Jerry Sandusky denied new trial on child sex abuse charges

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky lost a bid Wednesday for a new trial and a second chance to convince a jury he is innocent of the child sexual abuse charges that landed him in state prison to serve a lengthy sentence.

Judge John Foradora denied Sandusky's requests for a new trial or for dismissal of charges.

The former Penn State assistant football coach's lawyers said they were disappointed and planned to appeal the decision to Superior Court.

"The court's decision is not the end of Jerry's case, it is only the closing of a chapter which we need to go through in the course of our endeavor to obtain a new trial, a reversal of his conviction, and ultimately his release and vindication," said defense attorney Al Lindsay.

Sandusky, 73, has consistently maintained he was wrongly convicted. He argued that he did not receive adequate representation at his 2012 trial and that prosecutors should have disclosed more details about changes to victims' stories.

"Although he was denied access to the victims' psychological records, Sandusky was permitted to call witnesses to explore whether the victims had undergone repressed memory therapy prior to trial, and he did explore that subject" with victims and other witnesses, Foradora wrote.

Foradora also rejected arguments that Sandusky's lawyers should not have let him waive a preliminary hearing, should not have allowed him to give a television interview after his arrest, and should have done more to challenge the identity of a young man described as Victim 2 in court records.

The judge said the bulk of Sandusky's claims lacked merit.

"Those that remain, whether they fail for want of prejudice or because (trial defense attorney Joe) Amendola's actions or failure to act were informed by a reasonable strategy, do not combine to call into question the overall effectiveness of the defense counsel provided or the legitimacy of the verdict," Foradora concluded.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said prosecutors have "achieved justice" for Sandusky's victims and are confident the convictions will stand.

"Hopefully, today's decision will allow the victims of Mr. Sandusky to live their lives knowing that this serial sexual abuser will remain behind bars," said Shapiro, a Democrat.

Sandusky has been serving a 30- to 60-year sentence. Eight of his accusers testified at trial, describing abuse that ranged from grooming and fondling to violent sexual attacks.

The case, among the biggest scandals in college football history, led to major changes at Penn State and new state laws governing child abuse in Pennsylvania and other states.

Sandusky spent three decades at the university as an assistant to Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno before retiring in 1999.

The decision follows previous rulings against Sandusky by the state's Supreme and Superior courts.

Foradora was brought in nearly a year ago after the trial judge, John Cleland, removed himself in response to sharp criticism by Sandusky's lawyers of a meeting that Cleland participated in before Sandusky waived a preliminary hearing in 2011.

Penn State's former president, Graham Spanier, and two other ex-administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, were sentenced to jail time earlier this year after Spanier was found guilty and the others pleaded guilty to child endangerment for their handling of a 2001 complaint about Sandusky showering with a boy. Spanier is free on bail while he appeals his conviction.

The scandal has cost Penn State more than $200 million in fines, settlements and other costs, and the football program was hit with significant NCAA penalties that were later dialed back.

Penn State moves to No. 2 in AP poll thanks to Clemson loss

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Penn State moves to No. 2 in AP poll thanks to Clemson loss

They didn't play this week, but Penn State football still moved up in the AP poll.

Four of last week's top 10 fell Saturday, including No. 2 Clemson. The Tigers were shocked by Syracuse on Saturday, losing 27-24 in the Carrier Dome.

As a result, Penn State, 31-7 winners over Northwestern last Saturday, take Clemson's spot. Alabama remains the only team ahead of the Nittany Lions. The Crimson Tide, who trounced Arkansas, 41-9, Saturday night, is the unanimous No. 1, receiving all 61 first-place votes. Georgia slides up a spot to No. 3, while No. 4 TCU and No. 5 Wisconsin round out the top five. 

Penn State was last ranked as high as No. 2 on Oct. 31, 1999. The Nittany Lions next play 5-1 Michigan, ranked No. 19, Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. on ABC. 

For this week's full AP poll, click here