COLUMBUS — Penn State running back Saquon Barkley isn’t eligible for the NFL draft until 2018, but Urban Meyer thinks he already looks like a first-round pick.
There’s a good reason for that assessment. No one has run for more yards in a game against Ohio State in Meyer’s five seasons as the Buckeyes’ coach than Barkley did a year ago.
Barkley, who was coming off an injury which had kept him out of the two previous games, ran for 194 yards on 26 carries in a 38-10 Ohio State win in Ohio Stadium last season.
Only three other running backs have come close to 194 yards in the 60 games Meyer has coached at OSU.
In 2012, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball ran for 191 yards on 39 carries in a 20-14 overtime win by the Buckeyes. Earlier in 2012, California’s Brendan Bigelow went for 160 yards, 81 of them on one carry, in a 35-28 Ohio State win.
The other one was Wisconsin’s Corey Clement, who gained 164 yards on 25 carries, in OSU’s 30-23 overtime win in Camp Randall Stadium last Saturday night.
“I’ll say this about Penn State, their tailback is a first-rounder,” Meyer said on Monday at his weekly press conference. “Number one on the hit parade as far as Penn State, to stop them, is to minimize the impact the running back has on us.”
On Tuesday on the Big Ten teleconference, talking about OSU’s game at Penn State on Saturday night, he repeated his appraisal of Barkley’s importance in Penn State’s offense.
“The kingpin of that whole offense is that tailback. I thought he hurt us last year. He’s a phenomenal player,” Meyer said.
Linebacker Chris Worley called Barkley “a special talent.”
“From watching him play last year and the few games I’ve watched plays from (on film), he’s a special talent. As far as running the ball, he’s the full package. He can make guys miss, he’s physical, he’s fast, he’s strong,” Worley said.
Defensive end Sam Hubbard said Barkley definitely has the OSU defense’s attention this year after being somewhat of an unknown in 2015.
“I remember him from last year. We weren’t expecting him, we weren’t talking about him as much last year. He kind of came out of nowhere, making crazy runs, making crazy plays and hurdling guys,” Hubbard said. “He was hard to tackle, pretty elusive and a big strong guy. We’re definitely going to be a lot more focused on him this year than last year.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.