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Penn State Football: Barkley Will Have His Work Cut Out For Him To Catch McCaffrey

by on September 13, 2017 12:40 PM

Saquon Barkley is going to be returning kickoffs. That's just something fans are going to have to get used to, a reality James Franklin confirmed on Tuesday during his weekly press conference.

"You look at what Stanford did with their starting tailback," Franklin said of Christian McCaffrey. "He had a huge impact as a tailback, as well as a punt return guy and as well as a kick return guy."

"You know, one of the things that I don't really understand is everybody talks about how important special teams are, and it's just as important as offense and defense until you try to use your starters on special teams. I don't really get it. To me, it seems like talking out of both sides of your mouth, and we've never done that."

So get used to it.

But as Franklin brought up the former Stanford star turned Carolina Panther, it was the perfect benchmark for the kind of player Barkley is trying to be. The comparison has been made before, even by Barkley himself, but it doesn't mean that he can replicate McCaffrey's production on special teams.

In 2015, McCaffrey's most prolific season of his career, he returned 37 kickoffs for 1,070 yards at a clip of 28.9 yards a return. Despite all the highlights he only took one all the way to the endzone.

Barkley has a bit of work left to hit that mark. With just three returns so far this year he's added 70 yards to his all-purpose total at a 23.3 yards per return clip. If Barkley is going to hit McCaffrey's yardage total at that rate Barkley will need to return 42.9 more kicks, if he wants to do it in the next 34 returns to match McCaffrey's numbers he'll have to average 29.4 yards a return.

All things considered that isn't entirely impossible, although a bit unlikely. In 2016 Penn State returned 49 kickoffs, so the reps are there, but it's hard to imagine Barkley suddenly cranking out 30 yard returns. For comparison Stanford saw 51 kick returns in 2015 and McCaffrey only returned 34 of them. Similarly that would mean Barkley will see 29 more returns this year which would require a 34.4 yards per return average to match his Stanford counterpart.

Then again, if anyone can do it, it's him. And in his defense, three returns does not an accurate date set make.

"Saquon Barkley is one of the more explosive players, if not the most explosive player in the country when the ball is in his hands, and this is a way for us to pretty much guarantee that he's going to get the ball;" Franklin added. "Or they are going to kick it short to an upback and we are still going to end up with really good field position."

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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