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Tales of the Highlight Tape: Saquon Barkley

Breaking down the newest highlight tape of Penn State commit, running back Saquon Barkley.

Penn State commit four star running back Saquon Barkley
Penn State commit four star running back Saquon Barkley

We here at Black Shoe Diaries are committed to bringing you the best *FREE* Penn State recruiting coverage on the internet. To do that, we need to do more than just keep you up to date with the latest information in the recruiting world. We also want to make sure you know more about who these guys are as players. Tales of the Highlight Tape will work to bring you analysis on not only Penn State commits, but on Penn State targets as well. Please keep in mind that these videos do not tell the whole story for these recruits, because they are indeed HIGHLIGHT tapes.

Welcome to the first official installment of Tales of the Highlight Tape. Today we will look at Penn State commit, Saquon Barkley.

Name Position Rating High School Height/Weight
Saquon Barkley RB ★★★★ Whitehall (PA) 5'11"/190

Barkley's stats through 8 games this season.

Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Yards Per Game Total TDs Kick/Punt Return TDs
1,412 9.1 176.5 25 2

Initial Reactions:

I'm assuming that most of you had the same initial reaction as I did upon seeing this new tape.

To put it simply, it looks as if Barkley is playing against 7th graders. He's cutting through these defenses with power, speed, anticipation, name it, Barkley seems to have it. Something that stuck out to me, was how his team reacted to these huge runs. They didn't even seem surprised on the sideline. It's like they expect it from him.

A lot of these crazy runs won't happen in college, simply because the tackling is much better. Still, the balance he's showing is very impressive. The speed allows him to simply get around a lot of people, but he clearly has the ability to juke or power his way around or through tackles.

One of my favorite things about the video is the opening play, which is intriguing for multiples reasons. First, his ability to instantaneously change direction is killer. With one step and a spin move, he eliminates the first two guys in front of him. After that, his teammates throw him two absolutely ferocious blocks to help get him past the sideline. Then, when it looks like everything in front of him is shut down, he goes into a slow high-step and cuts through the last two men like butter. An extremely interesting/exciting play all around.


Barkley's speed is noticeable from the first play to the last play. With Franklin's desire to infuse more speed into the program, it's not surprising that Barkley was one of the first recruits he went after, despite his commitment to Rutgers (If you forgot, Barkley was scheduled to become a Scarlet Knight prior to February 19). It's not quite the kind of speed that will leave D1 defenders diving at nothing but air, but it's more than adequate for the college level. Even still, he appears to have a very good sense of what he really needs to turn on the jets, which is why his speed plays so well.


While he's no DeSean Jackson or Tavon Austin, Barkley's juke moves are something to fear. He employs spin moves, cut steps, stutter steps, and more into his repertoire of skill moves. The thing that deserves the most praise however, is his awareness on when to use these moves. Penn State fans have become accustomed to seeing Bill Belton dance around in the backfield as he waits for a running lane to open up. Barkley, on the other hand, breaks for the first hole he sees to guarantee positive yards, and then brings out the fancy stuff to turn short gains into long ones. There are plenty of football players in the world who know all of the juke moves in the book, but it's the ones who know when to use them that are successful. Barkley is one of those players.

Patience and Decisiveness

One of Barkley's seemingly most marketable skills is that when he sees any semblance of a hole, he hits it, and he hits it hard. It's a trait he shares with forgotten Penn State running back Akeel Lynch. Neither player has extraordinary power or lightning fast quickness, but both of them are very smart runners who understand how to take advantage of what is given to them. Barkley's highlights show off his ability to burst through the openings, whether they're created by his offensive linemen or his wide receivers downfield. In particular, the runs at 0:47 and 3:37 really showcase his ability to wait for his blockers to set up in front of him, whether it's in the open field or near the goal line.


The icing on the cake for Barkley's incredibly balanced skill set is, in fact, his balance. Whether it's bouncing off of a tackler, staying on his feet after a quick spin, having the ability to land comfortably on his feet after a monster hurdle, or keeping his knee off of the ground, Barkley is a very hard runner to bring down. The runs starting at 3:56, 4:12, 4:22, 4:34, and 5:12 really show off his ability to stay on his feet.

Bottom Line

When all is said and done, Barkley's high school tape represents essentially what Penn State desperately needs on this year's offense. He is a supremely talented athlete who understands the position better than most. He knows how to use his blockers, he knows when to take advantage of what's in front of him, and he is extremely difficult to bring down in open space for a myriad of reasons. He is the type of runner who has the ability to succeed in spite of his offensive line, thanks to these attributes. Luckily for Saquon, Penn State is bringing in a few highly ranked offensive line recruits alongside him. Although he started out as a three star recruit with only a few offers to choose from, there is a reason that Barkley has shot up the rankings in the past year. The Nittany Lions are getting a good one here.

Check out everything Saquon has on Hudl right here, and follow him on twitter if you're into that.