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Solak | Saquon Barkley dazzles as Penn State escapes Iowa

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Scouting Notes

Solak | Saquon Barkley dazzles as Penn State escapes Iowa

#4 Pennsylvania State Nittany Lions v Iowa Hawkeyes


Kinnick Stadium – Iowa City, IA

Score:  Penn State 21, Iowa 19


Notable Prospects Entering the Contest

Penn State Nittany Lions

Trace McSorley, QB, Junior:  Showed the ability to place the ball well with zip and touch situationally. Has the arm strength to reach all areas of the field, as modeled by opposite hash to boundary throw. Demonstrated excellent mobility and is a danger when breaking the pocket. Natural feels pressure and has nice awareness in the pocket. Showed natural poise and situational awareness with 2-minute drive, ending in 4th down walk-off TD. Keeps his eyes downfield when buying time.

Struggled to get into a rhythm all game due to consistent pressure. Rarely stood in the pocket and went through his progressions, either adjusting his platform frantically, or locking on to one read. Slow when reading the field and has to see it open. Was wildly inaccurate, regularly throwing from unnecessarily poor platforms without concern for mechanical integrity. Missed high and long. Much more accurate when settled in pocket. Had six batted passes due to lack of ideal height. Mechanics, even when pocket is clean, leave much to be desired. Must demonstrate an ability to read a defense to be considered an NFL-caliber QB moving forward. Stock: Down

Saquon Barkley, RB, Junior:  Illustrated each piece of the ideal RB puzzle in spades. Reads blockers and leverage naturally and regularly selects the best hole, whether within or outside of blocking scheme. Has trigger explosiveness that regularly embarrasses well-positioned defender. Mental acuity and physical prowess nicely translate to zone-scheme runs, though by no means are power schemes excluded from Barkley’s arsenal. Transcendent acceleration around the corner, with shocking flexibility through the ankles, knees, and hips. Runs behind his pads and falls forward almost exclusively. Impressively thick lower half, as well as flexibility, allows for elite contact balance.

Devastating second-level runner with unteachable creativity and the physical profile to achieve highlight reel runs. Explosiveness through jump cuts, especially, is without equal. Excels as a pass-catcher with soft hands. Shows willingness, form, and power in pass protection. Two minor gripes persist: occasionally looks to do too much, and doesn’t take easy yardage; relies so much on athletic ability, it must be confirmed that he will remain a transcendent athlete when against NFL-caliber players. If Barkley can play like this consistently, he will rightfully earn the venerable moniker of ‘generational talent.’ Stock:  Up

Mike Gesicki, TE, Junior:  Quiet game. Consistent hand catches on boundary in the flats. Played well through contact after the catch and fought for extra yardage, but doesn’t seem to be much of a tackle breaker. Did well cutting on split zone blocks, but struggle exchange power when square due to large, lanky frame. Diminished role in offense due mostly to defensive attention and takeover by teammate Saquon Barkley. Stock:  Same

Jason Cabinda, LB, Senior:  Aggressive, downhill player with squat, powerful frame and nice processing skills. Regularly diagnosed with excellent instincts and closed down on the line of scrimmage. Filled with excellent technique, visibly and audibly popping much larger offensive linemen. Clearly understands gap discipline. Has nice closing burst. Excelled at shooting gaps as the backside ‘backer. Did well reading routes from short zones and getting connected with potential pass-catchers; diagnosed a screen early as well. Motor runs exceptionally hot. Occasionally slow to disengage from blocker. Change of direction skills are notably lacking. Was confusion among linebacking corps, but was potentially out of position for go-ahead Iowa TD late in the fourth. Has NFL-caliber tools, and performance merits a deeper look. Stock:  Up

Marcus Allen, S, Senior:  Downhill thumper. Has excellent closing speed and has a knack for delivering big, legal hits (forced a fumble on one such play). Utilized as a blitzer well due to size/speed. Took some looks at weakside linebacker with mixed success. Struggled in man coverage due to poor change of direction skills. Range from single-high alignment in question. Occasionally fails to come to balance in space–comes in too hot. Ideal special teams player, but a greater range of tools is necessary to see significant safety reps in NFL. Stock:  Down

Grant Haley, CB, Senior:  Only targeted once: had a nice, quick close on that play. Stock:  Same

Iowa Hawkeyes

Akrum Wadley, RB, Redshirt Senior: Vision serves him very well, especially given consistent penetration from opposing DL. Has good contact balance given size. Excellent anticipation and body control allow for heightened evasiveness in open field/backfield despite limited physical profile. Lateral agility is good, but not excellent. Catches well out of the backfield and runs clean routes. Lacks fluidity, leading to limited explosiveness. Burst and long speed are also only above average. Despite big box score numbers, glaring holes in Wadley’s game remain. Stock:  Down

Sean Welsh, OT, Redshirt Senior:  Struggled mightily all game, likely due to playing OT when best suited for OG. Modeled nice mobility when pulling, though had a spotty hit rate. Excelled on zone blocking scheme run concepts, where mobility and smaller frame worked to his advantage. Feet couldn’t have been more confused on the edge. Regularly lost to speed around the edge, or lost post-foot discipline and relinquished the inside track. Kick-slide is abandoned at the slightest sign of danger. Can anchor, but struggles to reanchor. Hands rarely land on time or with power. Has zone-scheme potential at guard or center, but lack of length and foot quickness submarines his tackle potential. Stock:  Down

Josey Jewell, LB, Redshirt Senior:  Instinctive player, but lacks the physical profile to compete with NFL talent. Had multiple tipped passes when blitzing. Flows well when he sees it and has decent range. Good hitting power and can close with urgency. Did well to anticipate breaks in coverage. Regularly took poor angles, especially when lining up Saquon Barkley, and was betrayed by his lack of speed. Doesn’t read linemen quickly or fill with much urgency, often allowing climbing OL to come to him. Fails to play behind his hands and exchange power, regularly getting displaced or even planted. Fails to achieve proper leverage often, and struggles to disengage even when proper leverage is achiever. Lack of quickness demonstrated in space multiple times. The limited athletic profile may be too much to overcome.  Stock: Down

Other Players that Flashed 

Penn State’s Shareef Miller, DE, Redshirt Sophomore: Gave both Iowa tackles fits with a nice blend of quickness, power, and bend. Exploded off the line regularly, including on safety. Has excellent suddenness paired with decent hand usage to soften angles. Played with a hot motor.

Iowa’s Anthony Nelson, DE, Redshirt Sophomore: Had a breakout performance, including 2.5 sacks, 2.5 TFLs, and 2 PBUs. Utilized best trait, length, with nuanced understanding, sequencing push-pulls with forklifts and generating consistent pressure. Able to exchange power and win inside hand placement consistently. Excellent work slanting and exploding on field goal block. Struggled defending the read option due to pedestrian lateral agility.

Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, DE, Freshman: Excellent quickness and explosiveness off the snap. Modeled great hand tech on multiple rushes and regularly won the inside track with suddenness. Struggled a touch with power, but added mass in college weight room will assist there. Bright future.

Best Players on the Field 

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Jason Cabinda, LB, Penn State

Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa

Forgettable Performances

Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State

Sean Welsh, OT, Iowa

Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa

Benjamin Solak

Ben Solak has been a football fan and film junkie for all of his life, and has the pleasure of serving as a National Scout for NDT Scouting. He also covers the Philadelphia Eagles for Bleeding Green Nation and co-hosts the Locked On Eagles podcast. Ben takes many things far too seriously, including fishing, Captain America, grammar, and Game Of Thrones.

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