Penn State RB Saquon Barkley: Thanks, James Franklin, but clone already exists

Penn State coach James Franklin shifted focus from the 2017 season to future endeavors during Big Ten Media Days July 25. He joked about a personal goal to get another Saquon Barkley in a Nittany Lions uniform.

“The genetics are strong — mom and dad did a great job,” Franklin said, according to Land of 10’s Sean Keeler. “I’m actually trying to figure out — if it’s legal, NCAA-wise, I want to send mom and dad on a romantic vacation and try to convince them to have more children. The Saquon thing worked out pretty well.”

Barkley wasn’t among Penn State representatives who traveled to Chicago for the event. Instead, he heard about the comments from his mother, Tonya Johnson.

“She FaceTime’d me, and I was actually in class,” Barkley told Land of 10. “When we got a little break, I FaceTime’d her and she was like dying. ‘Did you hear what Coach Franklin said?’ I hadn’t seen it yet, so she told me.”

That conversation was routinely interrupted by laughter.

“My mom got a kick out of it,” he said.

Barkley, a junior running back surrounded by Heisman Trophy expectations and salivating NFL scouts, was good-natured about it. However, he doesn’t think a romantic trip for his parents is required in Franklin’s quest for a duplicate.

“A clone might not be necessary,” Barkley said. “I’ve kind of already got one right now: my little brother, Ali.”

Ali Barkley is a sophomore at Whitehall (Pa.) High School, where Saquon once starred. Ali says he is 6 feet, 180 pounds, and plays linebacker and running back.

He enters the 2017 season on a mission to climb the Zephyrs depth chart and warrant consideration as a full-time starter. Despite Ali’s lack of varsity reps, Saquon said his brother possesses a football ceiling that exceeds the one he carried as a high school underclassman.

“Way more potential than I had,” Saquon said. “He has a great frame to fill and kind of reminds me of myself. Just has to continue to work hard.”

When told about his older brother’s comments, Ali wasn’t surprised. Saquon has expressed similar thoughts in the past.

“Yeah, he tells me that,” Ali said. “He says I’ll get there one day.”

Saquon has reached legendary status at Whitehall since graduating in 2015. A three-year letterman and team captain with the Zephyrs, he didn’t burst onto the college recruiting scene until his junior season.

Barkley gained 284 total yards on the ground as a sophomore in 2012, according to his Penn State bio. He committed to Rutgers in September 2013 before rushing for 3,362 yards and 58 touchdowns as a upperclassman.

“I wasn’t a big-time recruit [when he committed to Rutgers],” Barkley  told Jacqueline Kantor of PennLive.com in September 2015. “It was my first offer. When I committed to Rutgers, my friends were like, ‘Wow, you committed so early.’ And I said I don’t think anywhere else is going to offer me.”

Penn State did six weeks later. Barkley flipped his pledge on Feb. 19, 2014, and signed with the Nittany Lions one year later.

He wasn’t a known commodity midway through high school. In fact, he wasn’t even a full-time starter at running back. Ali is a year younger now than Saquon was when his recruiting took off.

Whitehall coach Brian Gilbert said he anticipates a similar path on the field for Ali.

“He’s going to be a late bloomer, just like Saquon was,” Gilbert told Land of 10 in June.

Ali remembers the moment he realized his older brother was a special football prospect. It occurred during a 42-41 victory over Catholic Central (Allentown, Pa.) in September 2014. Saquon rallied Whitehall from a 28-point deficit, scoring three times on the ground and adding another touchdown on special teams.

“It was on a punt return and he just hurdled over the kid. I was like ‘Wow,’ ” Ali said.

Fittingly, Franklin has pointed to Barkley’s hurdle against Buffalo in 2015 as an initial launch for the hype that exists today.

Ali often hears about his brother’s success while trying to establish his own reputation on the football field and wrestling mat. He plans to compete in the 170-pound weight class this winter.

“It just motivates me,” he said. “It puts pressure on me but I just try not to think about that.”

Like his mother, Ali laughed at Franklin’s comments about the quest for Saquon 2.0. He said he hopes to eventually transition from extended Nittany Lions family to legitimate recruiting target.

“I really think I can if I work hard,” said Ali, who said he plans to attend Penn State’s opener against Akron.

Whitehall begins the season Friday night at Pocono Mountain East High School. Much like Saquon did, Ali has plenty to prove at the prep level entering his sophomore campaign.

The post Penn State RB Saquon Barkley: Thanks, James Franklin, but clone already exists appeared first on Land of 10.

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