Penn State’s rising attendance; opinions differ on former Nittany Lions RB Saquon Barkley

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.

Attracting a crowd

As college football attendance fell to record lows in 2017, one school saw its attendance increase significantly.

Penn State posted a 6.5-percent rise in attendance at Beaver Stadium last season, with an average of 106,707, ranking third behind Big Ten rivals Michigan and Ohio State.

Mark Wogenrich of the Allentown Morning Call writes that a home schedule featuring Pitt and Saquon Barkley’s Heisman candidacy certainly helped those figures.

The numbers are a stark increase from the time the program was navigating through the NCAA sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

From Wogenrich:

Prior to 2017, Penn State’s home attendance had fallen seven times since reaching its peak of 108,917 in 2007. Penn State’s worst season in that stretch was 2013, when the program averaged 96,587.

In a release, Penn State said it sold more than 3,500 new season ticket plans for the 2018 season, but plans to shrink the capacity to 103,000 will not change.

What-ifs

Penn State had a successful recruiting campaign, especially in the early signing session, but some things left Land of 10’s Tyler Donohue pondering what might have been.

Donohue asks a series of questions about things that could have drastically changed the course of the Class of 2018.

One of the biggest questions was quarterback Justin Fields, who originally verbally committed to Penn State but ended up switching to Georgia.

Barkley is the best … or is he?

The staff of the MMQB.com says Saquon Barkley is the best draft prospect on the board. Barkley very well may be the cream of the crop in a quarterback-heavy draft class and one that is fairly deep on defensive backs and offensive linemen, too.

From the MMQB:

Evaluators told The MMQB Barkley is a better prospect than Ezekiel Elliott was two years ago. Barkley is a true workhorse back who would be a first-round prospect solely on his ability as a runner. Add in his passing-game skills—think Le’Veon Bell, a big back who has the ability to create separation when lined up as a receiver—and he’s custom-built for the modern NFL.

One rub that Barkley might have to fight at combine time is his negative yardage, as pointed out by draft analyst Jon Ledyard on NDTScouting.com.

From Ledyard:

At the first sign of congestion, Barkley’s natural instinct is to slow his pace and look for a side door out. As a result he doesn’t get through as many creases as he should, but his vision in space truly activates his elite athleticism to take over and weave through and around defenders seamlessly. It is between the tackles where Barkley gets squeamish and looks to bounce outside more often than I’d like, although his offensive line didn’t always inspire confidence either.

Part of the issue for any running back since Evan Royster set records at Penn State has involved the offensive line. Barkley will have his chance to silence those doubters when the NFL combine begins at the end of February.

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For the kids

Penn State’s ever-popular and highly successful “Thon” is this weekend, and two Nittany Lions football players will be part of the weekend-long dance-a-thon, going for 46 straight hours.

Nick Scott and Charlie Shuman will participate, and with good reason, writes Josh Moyer of the Centre Daily Times.

Getting paid

When Nevada makes its first appearance at Beaver Stadium in 2020, it will go home with a fatter bank account.

Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal writes that Penn State will fork over $1.45 million for the Wolfpack to head east and likely be a heavy underdog in two years.

In fact, whoever does the scheduling for the Wolfpack should probably get a raise. Nevada collected $1.5 million from Texas A&M in 2015, another $2.3 million from Notre Dame and Northwestern in 2016-17, respectively, and has a date with Kansas State scheduled for 2021 that will pay at least $1 million.

Miss previous editions of the Wakeup Call? They can be found here.

The post Penn State’s rising attendance; opinions differ on former Nittany Lions RB Saquon Barkley appeared first on Land of 10.

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