Penn State

Beat writer Donnie Collins keeps you posted with in-depth analysis and commentary

A Saturday in Iowa: The night Barkley became a national phenomenon

A Saturday in Iowa: The night Barkley became a national phenomenon

Penn State fans have know, for a long while, just how gifted Saquon Barkley is.

It started to set in on the national college football scene earlier this year in the Rose Bowl, when Barkley did this:

And it has continued through the early stages of the 2017 season until Saturday, when he went from merely being an impressive, dominant force to a surreal one. A force that has made the nation take notice.

Barkley should be firmly atop the Heisman Trophy race as September winds down, after his 28-carry, 211-yard, 12-catch, 94-yard dismantling of Iowa’s stout defense. A game in which he ran around, through, past and over — literally, all of those things — the Hawkeyes.

Personally, it’s the best football game I’ve ever seen anybody play. Ever. At any level. From the best player I’ve ever seen, at any level. And, I’m thinking hard about today, the best player I’ve ever covered, in any sport.

Don’t care about my opinion?

OK. But the most amazing thing about last night was how many professional athletes were evidently watching on ABC. And, how many of them were amazed enough by Barkley’s performance that they felt compelled to Tweet about it. I don’t know how Saquon Barkley can stay humble after he reads some of these. But, here’s guessing he’ll find a way to do that too:









Lake-Lehman’s Eury gets his chance, by popular demand

Lake-Lehman’s Eury gets his chance, by popular demand

Former Lake-Lehman running back Nick Eury looks for running room against Lakeland back in his high school days with Lake-Lehman. On Saturday night, he got his first chance to carry the ball for Penn State. STAFF PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER DOLAN

One carry.

Four yards.

In the grand scheme of Penn State’s 56-0 thrashing of Georgia State in the nonconference finale, it’s a play and a handful of yards that might already be largely forgotten around Happy Valley. But for Nick Eury, they officially make him a Nittany Lion.

The redshirt freshman from Lake-Lehman got his first career carry in the fourth quarter of the Lions’ victory, and he’ll certainly hope it won’t be the last chance he gets to help his team on the field. But there’s a pretty cool story behind his first carry.

Saquon Barkley, it appears, pretty much demanded it happen.

Head coach James Franklin confirmed that much during his postgame press conference, saying Barkley was instrumental in Eury getting on the field.

Barkley, who had a dominant first half, smiled broadly when asked about that one carry for four yards after the game.

“That was awesome, Nick Eury getting into that game, seeing all those young guys get into the game,” Barkley said. “I know I’m not just speaking for myself here, but everybody on the team, every starter, you guys don’t know what those guys do for us during the week.

“On the scout team, they give us the looks that enable us to go out there and do what we’re doing. They might not be starting, but they’ve been with us since the offseason, winter workouts, spring ball. All the hard work we put in, they put in. You see them get in the game, it’s an exciting feeling.”

Penn State emptied its bench in the fourth quarter, giving more than a handful of young scholarship players and walk-ons like Eury the chance to see their first action.

Franklin said that’s something that not only helps the players, but improves the chemistry in the locker room.

“I talk about it not just from a player development perspective, but having a healthy locker room,” he said. “I preach it all the time, the importance of every single person in our program. It doesn’t matter what their role is; their role is critical to our success.

Urban Meyer says something all coaches should understand

Urban Meyer says something all coaches should understand

Urban Meyer has a valuable message for coaches: Just coach. AP PHOTO

This is something that has always bothered me, and you don’t just see it in college football. You see it in baseball and in basketball and in just about every team sport. I’ve seen it, sad to say, at the YOUTH level.

A team loses? A new coach blames the players. Says he can only work with what he’s got. The implication being, “Wait until I get MY players in here. Then everyone else will see.”

Tom Herman said something to that effect on Saturday, after the new Texas coach with the $28.85 million contract (not counting the incentives) watched his Longhorns get lambasted by Maryland — at home — in his debut.

“If we all thought that we were going to come in here and in nine months sprinkle some fairy dust on this team and think that we’ve arrived then we’re wrong,” Herman said.

This is the kind of thing that doesn’t just bother someone on the outside like me. it bothers a legend like Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, too. Drives him, as he puts it, “insane.”

“It’s like a new generation of excuse,” Meyer told

Read the entire article here. Because, it’s good perspective on an issue the media and fans have kind of allowed to slide. Meyer pulls no punches, and it’s worth remembering that Herman served as Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Ohio State before he went on to take the head coaching job at Houston (where, incidentally, he went 13-1 in his first season in 2015 with a roster almost exclusively recruited by his predecessor, Tony Levine).

If you’re a coach, coach. Take the kids you’ve got, and make them better. If you’re a professional coach, understand you aren’t just assuming a title. You’re assuming a program and everything that goes along with it. You can’t rip it. You just deal with it and find the positives.

Penn State fans wondered why the Nittany Lions were mediocre in their first two seasons under James Franklin. It’s because they didn’t have the players, the talent top to bottom that Meyer had at Ohio State. Bottom line. But you never heard Franklin complain publicly about it. Never heard him say, “Wait ’til I get some real recruits in here.” He could have, and he didn’t — probably at times to his own detriment.

Why? Because it was his job to make Penn State what it could be with what it had. Just like it’s Tom Herman’s job to make Texas what it could be, and your 7-year-old daughter’s youth soccer coach’s job to make that team what it can be. This whole “Just wait ’til…” routine is getting old.

Lions on the rise in this week’s polls

It was a good opening-week performance for Penn State against Akron, and the voters took notice.

The Nittany Lions jumped from No. 6 to No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press poll, after whipping Akron, 52-0. They blew past Florida State, who dropped from No. 3 to No. 10 after a 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama, and also received more votes than USC, which dropped from No. 4 to 6 after a mostly uneven 49-31 win over Western Michigan.

Alabama, of course, stayed at No. 1, with Ohio State at No. 2. Clemson moved up to No. 3.

They made the same jump, from 6 to 4, in the Coaches Poll.

There seemed to be a bit more disagreement about this week’s opponent for the Nittany Lions. Pittsburgh received just one vote in the AP Poll, but got 19 from the Coaches.

Four of the top nine teams in the country — the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions, No. 8 Michigan and No. 9 Wisconsin — are from the Big Ten.

Looking in-depth at James Franklin’s contract extension

Looking in-depth at James Franklin’s contract extension

Penn State head coach James Franklin officially has his contract extension. AP Photo.

What has long been speculated is now official: James Franklin will be Penn State’s football coach long past the 2017 season.

The Penn State Board of Trustees’ compensation committee unanimously approved a contract extension for Franklin at a meeting this morning. The university says it will release the terms of that extension later, but Sports Illustrated is reporting it is a six-year pact that will keep Franklin in Happy Valley through the 2023 campaign.


I’ll keep you informed on the terms of the deal when they become available.

Franklin head calls for his firing early last season after Penn State’s 2-2 start, but the prospect of a long, lucrative extension became brighter as he led the Nittany Lions on an epic run to the Big Ten Championship and its first Rose Bowl appearance since the 2008 season. Asked earlier this month at Penn State’s preseason media day about no deal being reached as practice began, Franklin shooed away any doubts that he worried about his standing with the university, saying he had “no concerns” a deal would get done. Athletic director Sandy Barbour also said on multiple occasions since last season her preference was to keep Franklin and his staff on the sidelines.

Franklin signed a four-year contract to coach the Nittany Lions in January of 2014 after Bill O’Brien’s departure for the Houston Texans.

UPDATE: Penn State has indeed announced the terms of Franklin’s deal, and you can look the contract over yourself here.

But here’s what I make of it:

Essentially, it’s a six-year deal worth $32 million. In guaranteed money, that’s about $5.33 million.

Franklin’s base salary will jump from $1.6 million this year to $3.55 million in 2022. But he’ll get $2.2 million per year in radio and TV money, as well as $500,000 as part of the Nike funds. That’s how it jumps to a $32 million total.

BONUSES: This is where coaches can really make big bucks, and if Penn State is a championship-level program, Franklin will as well.

  • He’s practically guaranteed a $200,000 bonus, which he will receive if Penn State makes a bowl appearance.
  • If Penn State appears in the Big Ten Championship Game, Franklin will net a $250,000 bonus; If Penn State wins the Big Ten Championship Game, he gets $350,000. If the Nittany Lions win the Big Ten East Division but don’t participate in the title game, he still walks away with $150,000.
  • If Penn State wins the national championship game, Franklin lands the big bonus, $800,000.
  • He’ll get $500,000 if Penn State loses in the national championship game, $400,000 if it lands in the playoff and $300,000 if it earns a bid to one of the four bowls in the College Football Playoff rotation that aren’t hosting a semifinal that particular season.
  • If he wins the national Coach of the Year award, Franklin nets $150,000 in bonus money. It’s $100,000 if he’s the Big Ten coach of the year.

Total bonus money, according to the contract, can not exceed $1 million. But, the only way Franklin would possibly exceed that number is if Penn State wins the national championship.

RETENTION MONEY: Again, this is practically guaranteed, but not technically a guarantee. But, as long as Franklin is Penn State’s coach, he’ll get a $300,000 bonus every Dec. 31 through 2020. It will be a $500,000 bonus on Dec. 31, 2021 and a $1 million bonus on Dec. 31, 2022.

This is likely where the $5.8 million annual average value came out earlier. The absolutely guaranteed money is $5.3 million on average, and if you add a $300,000 retention bonus and $200,000 for leading the team to any old bowl game, you get to $5.8 million.

IF HE LEAVES: The buyout for another college program or an NFL team to pry Franklin away from Penn State is pretty modest.

If he decides to leave for another job at any point in the 2017 calendar year, Franklin will owe the Nittany Lions $2 million. If he walks away from calendar year 2018 through 2022, it’s a $1 million buyout.

IF HE’S FIRED: Penn State can fire Franklin without cause during the deal, but it will owe him a pretty penny, especially early in the contract.

Franklin will be owed the current-year guaranteed compensation if he’s relieved of his duties, multiplied by the number of years remaining on his contract.

So, for example and as I understand it, if Franklin is fired after the 2019 season, when his guaranteed compensation according to the contract is $5.65 million with three years left on his deal, he’ll walk away with $16.95 million. That would save Penn State about $1 million on the remainder of the deal.

Here is what I’m calculating Franklin’s severance (in effect) if he is fired, without cause before the following seasons begin:

2017: $25.8 million
2018: $22.5 million
2019: $21.4 million
2020: $16.95 million
2021: $11.9 million
2022: $6.25 million

Keep in mind, though: Franklin is not paid by the season, but by calendar year. So, this number would depend on when Penn State makes the decision.

OTHER PERKS: Franklin will also get a $10,000/year automobile allowance and 50 hours of use, per year, of a private aircraft.

Philly’s Young keeps PSU’s recruiting roll going

Isheem Young, a four-star safety from Imhotep Charter in Philadelphia who long has been one of the most-coveted recruits on Penn State’s radar, made a big splash this afternoon by announcing he has verbally committed to Penn State.


(See what I did there? Big splash!)

The Lions have been on quite a recruiting role lately, landing Tampa defensive lineman Judge Culpepper, Connecticut quarterback Wil Levis, Harrisburg receiver Shaquon Anderson-Butts, Iowa kicker Jake Pinegar, Maryland receiver Daniel George and now, arguably, their biggest get in Young since last Friday.

Young is ranked by and 247sports as the No. 5 prospect in Pennsylvania, and it’s probably fair to say he was the top safety wish on Penn State’s list. The staff has added four solid defensive back prospects in this class so far, with Texas’ Isaiah Humphries likely joining Young at safety.

Penn State’s class is ranked No. 3 in the nation currently by Rivals.

Lions introduce “retro” unis

Penn State will look a little bit different when it hosts Indiana at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 30.

Not completely different, mind you. But different.

The program unveiled a retro uniform Thursday, and it will be worn for the Indiana game, which has been labeled as a “Generations of Greatness” celebration.

Check out the video for a look:


Generally, I don’t like the throwback uniform fad — unless it’s a throwback uniform that never should have changed in the first place — but this one is really sharp. It’s not like an Oregon thing, where you’d have to do some research to determine it’s Oregon playing half the time. This is a really good homage to a lot of neat uniform twists the Nittany Lions have used over the years. Wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a uniform they wear quite a bit.

Top Jersey prospect commits to Nittany Lions

I spent my Sunday covering a NASCAR race, but Penn State made some news this weekend by getting a verbal commitment from defensive end Dorian Hardy.

Lions247 has a pretty cool look at the moment the New Jersey product let Penn State coaches know of his decision. It’s no wonder they were so pumped up.

Just a few days after losing QB Justin Fields — the second five-star recruit to back away from his Penn State commitment in the 2018 class — the Nittany Lions wound up bagging a consensus four-star prospect who 247 sports ranks in its top 160 prospects in the nation., and ESPN all have him ranked in that general area, as well.

Penn State needed a big get, and it needed one on the defensive line. Harrisburg’s Micah Parsons, the other five-star who opted to reopen his recruitment, had been the only commitment at the position in the upcoming class.

Penn State loses another major recruit

Six weeks ago, Penn State lost a five-star recruit at a position of need when Harrisburg High School defensive end Micah Parsons announced he was planning to reopen his recruitment.

The one-time top recruiting class in the nation lost another big piece of the future puzzle on Tuesday night.

Quarterback Justin Fields, a quarterback from Georgia who has been skyrocketing up prospect lists and recruiting rankings since he committed to Penn State in December, announced he too would be opening up his recruitment.


247sports ranked Fields as the No. 6 overall prospect in the nation and the top dual-threat quarterback in the nation.

Florida and Florida State recently offered Fields scholarships, and home-state Georgia is also in the running. But, Fields said Penn State will still be among the top contenders.

Lions to kick in close-to prime time against Georgia State

Lions to kick in close-to prime time against Georgia State

Just when you thought your Saturday nights were going to be free in the fall…

Big Ten Network announced its first three weeks worth of game coverage today, and the Nittany Lions will appear once on the network in that span, on Sept. 16 against Georgia State at Beaver Stadium.

The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m.

The Nittany Lions’ scheduled game times have come out in bits and pieces over the last few weeks, and it has been interesting, to say the least.

Few probably figured the Georgia State game would be a nighttime tilt, and it turns out to be the first night game officially announced (though, we can presume, the Oct. 21 game against Michigan at Beaver Stadium will likely be a later start at the very least since it has been announced as a White Out).

So far, Penn State officially has three noon starts (Sept. 2 vs. Akron; Oct. 7 at Northwestern; Nov. 11 vs. Rutgers), and two 3:30 p.m. contests (Sept. 9 vs. Pitt and Oct. 28 at Ohio State) on the slate.

The start times for games at Iowa, Michigan State and Maryland and home tilts vs. Indiana and Nebraska — in addition to Michigan — are still to be announced.