Marcus Allen

2018 NFL draft prospect watch: Six seniors to keep an eye on

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2018 NFL draft prospect watch: Six seniors to keep an eye on

It wasn't the intention of the author to profile all seniors, but here we are.

On Saturday, there will be six seniors in action during three of college football's biggest games. All six are worthy of NFL draft consideration. And all of them could possibly help the Eagles in 2018 and beyond.

Let's take a look at a few players to keep your eye on Saturday.

No. 16 TCU at No. 6 Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

►No. 28 James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State, senior (6-1/205)

Washington could've skipped his senior year after two extremely productive seasons for the Cowboys, but opted to return. And so far the results have been prolific. Through three games, Washington has 13 catches for 367 yards and three touchdowns. He's averaging 28.5 yards per catch, good for fifth in the country. Washington isn't a polished route runner, but his quick feet indicate he could become one. He has a second gear when the ball is in the air and is excellent at tracking it.

►No. 32 Travin Howard, LB, TCU, senior (6-1/213)
Howard is a tackling machine. The senior 'backer is coming off back-to-back 100-tackle seasons. His disruptive plays were down a bit from his sophomore to junior year, but he's already notched 2½ tackles for a loss and a pick six in three games this season. He's undersized, though he looks bigger than his listed weight. Still, the NFL is trending toward small, quicker linebackers. With Nigel Bradham on the final year of his deal and Mychal Kendricks perpetually on the trade block, linebacker is a sneaky need for the Eagles.

No. 4 Penn State at Iowa, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)

►No. 2 Marcus Allen, S, Penn State, senior (6-2/207)

Hey, Eagles fans. Can we talk for a second? Cool. I know you all think Saquon Barkley would look fantastic in midnight green, but here's the thing: unless, the Eagles win four games or less, they likely have no shot at landing Barkley. 

Moving on, Allen is a safety prospect that would seem to fit Philly quite well. He's coming off a strong junior campaign where he recorded 110 tackles, including six for a loss. He's built more like a corner, but Allen is physical and plays with an edge. He recorded his first career interception last week against Georgia Southern, so you'd like to see more production there. With that said, the Eagles could use a developmental safety to learn under Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. While he's learning, Allen could be a special teams maven with his speed and physical nature.

►No. 25 Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa, senior (5-11/195)
Wadley isn't the biggest back, but boy is he fun to watch. He's coming off a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season. He also snagged 36 passes in 2016. Wadley is an ankle breaker. Some of the cuts he makes are LeSean McCoy-esque. He's been slowed by an ankle injury but is expected to play today. And the Hawkeyes will need him against the Nittany Lions.

No. 7 Washington at Colorado, 10 p.m. (FS1)

►No. 36 Azeem Victor, LB, Washington, senior (6-3/231)

Even after losing a bunch of extremely talented players to the NFL (including two to the Eagles) the Huskies' defense is still a force. Part of that is Victor. Before suffering a broken leg late season, Victor recorded 68 tackles in nine games. Even with the injury, Victor was named All Pac-12 first team. You have to love what head coach Chris Petersen is doing up in Washington. His players play a fast and physical brand of football. It's worth mentioning that Victor was suspended for the team's opener for violating team rules, but hasn't had any off-the-field issues.

►No. 23 Phillip Lindsay, RB, Colorado, senior (5-8/190)
Another undersized back, Lindsay had a big junior season, rushing for 1,252 yards and 16 scores. He was also impressive as a receiver out of the backfield, with 53 receptions for 493 yards and a TD. He's off to another strong start, notching two games of 140-plus yards and finding pay dirt in all three games. He's more of a north-south runner for a smaller back, but if he finds daylight, he has the speed to run by defensive backs. Every once in a while, he'll break off one of those Darren Sproles-like-pinball runs as well.

After 56-0 blowout, No. 4 Penn State feels there's more to give as Big Ten play looms

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After 56-0 blowout, No. 4 Penn State feels there's more to give as Big Ten play looms

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Saquon Barkley hung another masterpiece Saturday but were you to browse the rest of the gallery, you might have found scaffolding and half-completed pen-and-inks.

Because even at 3-0, even with a No. 4 national ranking, there is still a work-in-progress feel to this Penn State team.

Is that nitpicking? Is that the equivalent of searching for a smudge on the Mona Lisa?

Not at all. Not if you listen to the principals.

Barkley turned a nothing pass into an 85-yard work of art in the first quarter of Saturday’s 56-0 embarrassment of Georgia State. The junior running back is a transcendent player, a Heisman hopeful, a certain early NFL draft pick.

And while coach James Franklin thought his team played a complete game against the overmatched Panthers (something he also said after a season-opening 52-0 rout of Akron), he did raise some questions.

He said the Lions can be better along both lines — that they can do a better job running the ball and stopping the run, staples in any era. He might have added that his receiving corps could be a little more productive, his quarterback a little more consistent, his guys a little less dependent on Barkley.

And indeed they will have to be, with the Big Ten season now upon them. PSU opens at Iowa next Saturday night.

“We knew we were dangerous (coming into the season),” safety Marcus Allen said, “but I think we see we can be at an elite status and we can really be that elite team.”

And how do they get there?

“Hard work,” he said. “Hard work and dedication.”

Suffice it to say, then, that the non-conference portion of their season was a starting point, that they applied the first brush strokes to their self-portrait.

“This is probably our best week of preparation, our most complete week,” quarterback Trace McSorley said.

And, he added, it is “a huge thing” to have that at this point.

Now the Lions just have to repeat it nine more times if they are to repeat as Big Ten champion.

McSorley was admittedly displeased with his play in last Saturday’s 33-14 victory over Pitt and spent the practice week smoothing out his mechanics. The result was an 18-for-23, 309-yard, four-touchdown performance. He also ran for a score.

He still appears to be working things out with a revamped receiving corps, which, since last season, has lost its best wideout, Chris Godwin, to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Juwan Johnson is still finding his way after a strong offseason. DeAndre Thompkins has made more of an impact as a punt returner. Saeed Blacknall, the hero of last year’s Big Ten championship game, registered his first catches of the fall (including a TD) Saturday.

And so on.

At least tight end Mike Gesicki is still around, and Barkley always seems to be everywhere McSorley needs him to be.

Which brings us to the 85-yard play. With PSU up 7-0 and facing 3rd-and-12 from its own 15, McSorley rolled right. Barkley was just a few yards in front of him and looking back at his QB, but for some reason, slid in the opposite direction, from the right flat to the left.

“It was kind of just a feel,” Barkley said. “I kind of thought that Trace was going to lose me and that me sliding would help.”

McSorley wound up firing a five-yard pass across his body to Barkley, and then the fun began. He juked one guy, outran just about everybody else down the sideline, cut back, picked up a block from wide receiver Brandon Polk and, before long, was standing in the end zone.

Asked to explain all that, Barkley said, “It just happens naturally. It’s kind of a reaction.”

Franklin reacted by saying that he “can’t imagine there is a more explosive, dangerous player in space” than Barkley, and added that his star was almost as excited about backup Nick Eury getting a carry late in the game as he was his own play.

“He is a special guy in a lot of different ways,” Franklin said. “I stopped being surprised or amazed a while ago with him.”

Barkley, who played two and a half quarters, finished with 226 all-purpose yards — 142 on four receptions, 47 on 10 rushes and a 37-yard kickoff return. He also believes he has more to provide.

“I feel faster (than in past years),” he said, “but I still feel like there’s room to improve. I feel like I can find a way to get another gear.”

The team as a whole will need to do that, too.

It’s the only way this season might end up being suitable for framing.