Draft analysts give RB Saquon Barkley high marks; Penn State’s defense shows new wrinkles

Penn State football is the No. 1 topic in We are… Awake every day — but we cover news, notes and analysis from across Nittany Lions sports. Join us each morning to get caught up on everything you missed in the world of Penn State football, recruiting, basketball and more.

Glowing reviews

ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay were lavish in their praise of Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, with both saying that they would accord him an elite grade – “probably a notch below Adrian Peterson,” McShay said — and both believing he will go within the top five picks of the selection process next spring.

McShay went on to add the following:

“He can really do it all as a player, and the only obvious area of concern is durability, as he’s already been nicked up this season again.”

The No. 3 Nittany Lions are notoriously secretive about injuries, but Barkley has not missed significant action during their 6-0 start.

New wrinkles on defense

Andrew Callahan of Lions247 is back with his video breakdown of the Nittany Lions’ defense against Northwestern, and he noted that coach Brent Pry’s group showed a few new wrinkles, as might be expected of a team heading into a critical stretch of the season. Specifically, Callahan saw a dime package he hadn’t seen before. The only linebacker in the game in that look was Manny Bowen, and he was joined by cornerbacks Grant Haley, Christian Campbell and Amani Oruwariye, as well as safeties Troy Apke and Marcus Allen. The Nittany Lions showed some new blitzes out of that, Callahan writes, and can be expected to add some more tweaks in the weeks to come.

Jordan Smith, revisited

John McGonigal of the Centre Daily Times catches up with former Penn State cornerback Jordan Smith, known for his playmaking last season. He dishes on Pry (“He coaches with a little chip on his shoulder, a little bit of swag”), Campbell (“That boy is nice”) and his troubles defending ex-teammate Allen Robinson in practice (“My entire freshman year, he tore me apart, man”).

Hockey team visits Minnesota

Chris Taylor of Black Shoes Diaries notes Penn State’s 11th-ranked hockey team, having split two games to open the season, starts Big Ten play with games Friday and Sunday at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers swept all four regular-season meetings with the Nittany Lions last season, Taylor writes, though Penn State upset them on the way to a conference tournament title and an NCAA berth.

Women’s volleyball up to No. 2

According to the university’s official website, the women’s volleyball team, 15-1 after victories over Ohio State and Maryland last weekend, jumped from No. 3 to No. 2 in the nation this week, ahead of Stanford. The two schools have repeatedly flip-flopped this season. In addition, senior middle blocker Haleigh Washington was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the third time this season, and the eighth time in her career.

Goalie Daniela Paniccia honored

Also according to the university website, sophomore Daniela Paniccia of the women’s hockey team was named College Hockey America Goalie of the Week after turning aside 24 of 25 shots in two games against Union. She is the second Penn State goalie honored in as many weeks, Hannah Ehresmann having done so previously.

Mike Miranda’s right

Freshman offensive lineman Mike Miranda, a native of Stow, Ohio, tweeted out one plaintive wish on Monday.

Also in the Land of 10

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