Lost in the shuffle of an otherwise busy week (considering it’s the offseason), the current crop of Nittany Lions were busy wrapping up winter workouts with Max Out Week, a chance to improve their weight lifting numbers. On Tuesday, wide receivers coach Josh Gattis posted a video of Barkley breaking a record previously owned by defensive tackle Anthony Zettel doing a 390lb. power clean lift. In less than an hour, the video made its way outside of the usual Penn State pages and found itself in the national sports spotlight. As a follow-up on Wednesday, it was reported that Barkley ran the 40yd. dash in 4.37 seconds, which would have put him in the top 5 at last weekend’s NFL Combine, and more video surfaced of him doing 500lb. squats not once, but SEVEN times in a row. Yes, the name Saquon Barkley was trending all over social media this week. His legendary status officially grew without even putting on a jersey and pads. And for those that do root for the enemy, their fear of stopping Barkley just grew stronger.
Saquon wasn’t the only Lion to turn heads this week as the beginning of spring practice approaches. Redshirt freshman Sterling Jenkins is up to 335lbs. and bench pressed 400. Paris Palmer, who struggled much of last season at left tackle raised his bench press from a paltry 185 when he arrived on campus last winter to a much more respectable 385. True freshman Connor McGovern equaled Jenkins 400lbs and Marcus Allen was applauded by strength coach, Dwight Galt, for the infectious attitude he routinely brings to every workout. Other names that Galt singled out were John Reid, Grant Haley, Antoine White and Kevin Givens.
In other news, the Nittany Lion Five took on the competition during last weekend’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Former QB Christian Hackenberg was first on deck and managed to turn in a performance that neither helped nor hurt his quest for a high draft pick. He struggled with his short throws and looked like an All-Pro when he went deep. In most of the agility drills, Hack finished in the upper tier. Shortly after the combine ended it was announced that Hack would be one of seven participants in the John Gruden QB Camp on ESPN which will begin airing April 12th. On Sunday Austin Johnson, Anthony Zettel and Carl Nassib were the participants from Penn State. Zettel raised over $6,000 in his Reps for Rare Diseases quest by lifting 225lbs 28 times and performed very well in the assigned agility drills. Johnson retained his status as a mid-first to early second round pick, and Nassib raised his stock by showing off the hustle that helped him lead the nation in sacks in 2015. Jordan Lucas is still recovering from the shoulder injury that caused him to miss the final three games of the year and did not participate in Monday’s drills. Although, he did interview and meet with teams interested in his services. Penn States Pro Day is scheduled for March 17th and will be the next big step for all five as they chase their future in the NFL.
Finally, James Franklin and his staff held a Junior Day for the 2017 class and turned it into a Wild Dog kind of day as they gained commitments from a trio of defensive linemen. Micah Parsons, a five-star defensive tackle from Harrisburg was the first to commit after a long courtship with Franklin and D-Line coach, Sean Spencer. Although just a sophomore and committed to the 2018 class, Parsons is one of the most sought after players in his class at any position. Damion Barber, also out of Harrisburg and Yetur Matos from Virginia became the third and fourth commits (along with Sean Clifford and Dylan Rivers) to join the growing list that will end up representing the Class of 2017 in just under a year. All four seem rock solid in their commitment to Penn State and have pledged to lead the charge in bringing the Nittany Lions back to the promised land, which seems to be a common theme amongst this group. Of course, with the Harbaughs of the world roaming around practicing the fine art of negative recruiting, we have quickly grown to learn a commit is only truly a commit once that fax comes through in February. Until then, I suggest we all just sit back, admire and enjoy The Saquon Barkley Show as long as he’s available in Happy Valley. I have a sneaky feeling the best is yet to come. Maybe the best of all time.