Diamonds in the Rough

Diamonds in the Rough

Inch-by-inch and day-by-day we get a little bit closer to Show Time. The off-season that never rests is like an Amtrak train barreling its way toward a season of great expectations. The freshmen are on campus, in summer classes, and already grinding away under the guidance of strength coach Dwight Galt in the weight room. They are acclimating themselves to the happiest of Happy Valleys, our current state of mind. The preseason predictions only serve as proof that what may have felt like a dream a season ago, was anything but. Sixty-one days until kickoff my friends, and leading the charge are a trio of diamonds in the rough.

The shiniest of diamonds title belongs to a kid out of Whitehall, Pennsylvania. He was a 3-star Rutgers commit without a sniff from Penn State by the time Bill O’Brien left on a jet plane at the stroke of midnight that New Years Eve in 2014. With little fanfare and reaction from a fan base still getting used to the high-profile brand of recruiting James Franklin brought to the table, Saquon Barkley made the flip of all flips (before we ever knew how high he could soar) and committed to the Nittany Lions. The rest is history, still being written of course, with one magical season left to add to his legacy. The spring before his arrival we caught a glimpse of potential when he won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash at the Pennsylvania State Track and Field Championships. The gold medal wasn’t what attracted us as much as the story afterwards that Mr. Barkley quietly gave his medal away to a girl that was penalized for a false start that turns out really wasn’t during her race. Little did we know the Legend of Saquon was born that day, as much for his humble demeanor as it was for his athletic superiority.

Not long after Barkley wrapped up his freshman season, James Franklin managed to pull another diamond in the rough out of mid-air by securing the services of Joe Moorhead as the new Offensive Coordinator. At the time, you could feel the grumbles brewing from a fan base eager to shed the frustration the previous OC left behind, not quite thrilled with a coach that came from tiny Fordham-U. For those of us that mingle daily on social media, I distinctly recall none other than former Nittany Lion Brandon Noble reassuring those that itched for the bright lights of a big name that Joe Moorhead would blow our socks off with his play-calling. It may have taken a few games to gel, but by season’s end, JoeMo had fans begging him to stay.

And then there’s the case of “The Wizard,” as he's come to be known. Recently I was told by a good source that the one-time Vandy commit turned Nittany Lion, Trace McSorley, had at the very least, a sliver of Penn State heart growing up in Northern Virginia. In fact, McSorley attended camp in Happy Valley as far back as the twilight of the JoePa era and had a brush with O'Brien as well. All to no avail, as neither gave the kid a chance. But as the story goes, most especially when one has the knack for finding diamonds in the rough, everything happens for a reason. The Wizard of Camelot followed FrankLion and the rest is history, still being written of course.

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on these diamonds in the rough, the shiniest of them all, Mr. Barkley, was busy blowing up social media once again with his superhuman feats in the weight room. A year after setting the Penn State record with a squat of 600lbs, he broke another with a power clean of 405lbs; with what seemed like relative ease I might add. It's hard to say what would have happened had Saquon gone to Rutgers, of all places. He may have single-handedly made them decent competition. Thankfully, that story will never be written as he, JoeMo, and The Wizard prepare for an encore performance together all thanks to the vision of the biggest diamond in the rough, James Franklin.