How James Franklin destroyed Saquon Barkley’s Heisman bid

“He’s the best player I’ve ever been around.” Those are the words spoken by Penn State head coach James Franklin to describe Saquon Barkley earlier this year.

Truer words have never been spoken. Barkley does things on the football field that nobody else can do (like this).

He has the size — 5-foot-11 and 229 pounds — to run with power between the tackles. He has the power to finish off those runs when given a lane. He also has the kind of game-breaking speed that you just cannot coach (watch here).

Because of his many exploits, Barkley has been one of the most popular players in all of college football.

Barkley is also so good that people who cover the NFL are trying to convince themselves he’s NOT worthy of being taken No. 1 overall. Because, to the eyeball test, he checks off every single box. And we suspect he’ll put stats up at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine that will leave coaches needing cold showers.

So, James Franklin has this player who is incomparable at the collegiate level. A player who’s so good at least one scout says Ezekiel Elliott doesn’t hold a candle to him. A player even Elliott himself said “is unreal.”

Yet time and time again this year, Franklin has made Barkley into a secondary figure in his offense. Which is strange, because he leaned heavily on Barkley last year, and (shockingly!) it worked. Barkley carried the ball 18 or more times in a game nine times and averaged 107 yards per game on the ground in 2016. Through 10 games this year, it’s happened just three times, and he’s averaging just under 90 yards per game.

In the key games Penn State lost, Barkley was either not featured enough (Michigan State) or non-existent until it was too late (Ohio State).

Looking at the splits, it’s even more clear Barkley is a secondary figure when you see he’s not featured at the start or end of games. Of Barkley’s 166 carries, only 70 have come in the first and fourth quarters. He’s the fill-in guy Franklin uses when he remembers he has the best player in the nation twiddling his thumbs.

It’s not like this has been an awful season for Barkley. He’s totaled 1,459 yards of offense and accounted for 15 touchdowns, plus he’s added 423 yards and two touchdowns on kickoff returns. That’s pretty darn impressive.

But it’s hardly as good as it could have been.

Franklin had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to help the best overall player in college football win the Heisman in 2017.

Instead, Franklin has seemingly done everything in his power to ensure Barkley doesn’t win the most coveted individual award in college football by putting him in the back seat. And as a bonus, he also sunk his team’s chances of winning a national title.

Featuring Barkley and winning a title should have gone hand-in-hand. Instead — and no offense intended to Trace McSorley, who’s a fine player — the team’s offense and playoff hopes have been wasted in what will almost certainly be Barkley’s final year at the collegiate level.