Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott has spent 25 years roaming the field and stalking the sidelines, including seven seasons in the SEC.
And, in that time, he said he’s seen few athletes better than Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.
“I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of good backs in my time and he’s right up there,” Elliott said during a Monday afternoon conference call. “He’s powerful. That’s the thing about it. He’s just got so much strength and you gotta gang tackle this guy, you gotta rally to the football.
“I don’t think anybody in college football can bring him down alone ... Barkley is a true talent. Can’t really compare him to a lot of backs because he’s just so physical, and he’s gonna be tough to handle.”
Through two games this season, Barkley has continued the preseason Heisman hype by accounting for 429 all-purpose yards and four TDs. He’s averaging 9.3 yards per carry, 12.1 yards per reception and 23.3 yards per kickoff return.
Preparing for a back that appeared on ESPN’s Sport Science — one that former Spartans DT Malik McDowell once said was better than Heisman-winner Derrick Henry — won’t be an easy task. That’s why Elliott plans to take “the very best player we got” and put him in Barkley’s spot on the scout-team offense.
Even then, Elliott acknowledged, there’s no way to truly prepare for Barkley’s ability.
“There’s not a whole lot you can do mimicking a guy like him,” Elliott said. “There’s just not. He’s a class above a lot of guys and for us to mimmick him would be almost crazy, but we’ve got a back that’s going to run hard this week and get us prepared. As long as we’re making our fits, getting to the football, hopefully we’ll be OK.”
Why play Penn State?
Elliott was asked what he hopes to gain from going up against the No. 5 team in the country. Here’s what he had to say:
“First and foremost is a win. I know you probably sit there and laugh, but we’re going up there to play that football game just like any other. We got to come up there and we’ve got to execute, both offensively, defensively and on special teams. ... We’ve got a lot at stake for our football program here. It’s a great venue to be playing in, it’s an opportunity for us. I think we’re going to be playing on the Big Ten Network so a lot of people are going to see Georgia State football and we’re going to go out and — win or lose — Penn State is going to know we came up there to play a football game. I can assure you of that.”