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November 22, 2016

Saquon Barkley

University Park, Pennsylvania

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Saquon Barkley.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the Michigan State defensive line. Do you see any similarities between their young defensive line and yours that kind of have matured over the season and what are the differences?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Their defensive line is really good. Yeah, watching film throughout the season, you could see how they grew. Overall as a team probably grew from the beginning of the year to now. They have some studs, especially a guy like Malik McDowell, highly ranked draft prospect. The way he played last year, you don't forget about that.

Yeah, I see a process in how they grew from the beginning of the year till now.

Q. What kind of appreciation do you have for what this senior has class has done? How important is this game for everybody?
SAQUON BARKLEY: This is really important for us because we really do want to send the seniors off on the right note, 10-win season, be undefeated at home. Those seniors mean a lot to us. They're the rock of this team. They're the reason why this program was able to stay over. They were here when times were bad for us.

Looking up to those guys in the recruiting process is a big reason why I wanted to come to this school. Underclassmen want to play hard for them, send these guys out on a high note.

Q. Any particular guys you got particularly close with, took you under their wing?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Somebody I got closer with throughout the year is Brian Gaia. I would say my appreciation for him grew more as a player throughout the years. He's the center of our team. Like I say, he's a rock. He calls the calls for us. He's a big reason for my success in the running game. A lot of people don't notice that or acknowledge him as much as I think he should be.

Q. How would you describe Trace McSorley's leadership style? What is his strongest character or attribute for this team?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Trace is the leader of this team. When time is going down, he's always there for us. When time is going good, he's there for us. He's not a front-running leader. He's going to bring guys together to talk before games, during games or after games if we need it.

One thing I love about Trace, he's not the tallest guy, biggest guy, but he doesn't have quit in him. When you have a guy like that in the backfield, you know you can always win and you want to play 10 times harder for him.

Q. (No microphone.)
SAQUON BARKLEY: What we're not doing in practice, him, Hammy, a whole bunch of leaders in the offense. We'll call it up, talk about it, try to get the offense right because we know we cannot have bad practices going into games.

Q. Has this season matched or exceeded your expectations for the team and yourself?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I would say our goal coming into the season is that we wanted to have an opportunity to play for the Big Ten championship. We wanted to be the best we can be. Unfortunately we lost two games early in the year. We didn't let that affect us at all. We were able to regroup. Our goals were in line, we were able to come out and have a winning streak going.

I wouldn't say it exceeded or matched it. I would say I'm not satisfied with where we're at because the season is still not over. Our goals are aligned still. We're still playing well, still gelling together.

Q. When it became a reality that you might be able to play here in the recruiting process, did you watch much of Penn State during the season? When you do that, are you at all focusing on the players that maybe one day you'll be playing with? What did you think about the product you saw? How did your opinions change, if at all?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Well, I'm from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Penn State football is always on. I was more, like, an NFL fan when I was a little bit younger. Penn State football was always on. Like you couldn't miss it, to be honest.

With the recruiting process, just watching those guys, the guys who left, Hacks, A.J., guys like that, watching them, coming here for games, watching how they were able to keep this program alive, keep this program together, just made me want to come here so much more.

I remember watching the Michigan game my junior year in high school. I was amazed. Obviously they were spectacular athletes, Allen Robinson making plays for us. The fight that they had, they would never quit. That's what you want. That's the kind of program you want to play for.

This program is special. When the opportunity came, I talked to my family about it, got them to talk to Coach Franklin. When they got onboard, it was a no-brainer to come to this school. Grateful I'm able to play at a program such as Penn State.

Q. Penn State won that Michigan game. Did you see games where Penn State lost and think, If I'm there, maybe I can help that become a win?
SAQUON BARKLEY: When I came here for the Ohio State game, the year after the white out, obviously they lost in overtime. Just watching that game, I wasn't, like, Oh, maybe I can do this, score this touchdown. You never know 'cause you're a high schooler. You're not really ready to play at that level yet because you're still in high school.

One thing I did want to do, I wanted to come to a place where I can make an impact. I want to be a reason why, part of a reason why, to make this place special again.

We got something special going right now. We know that. We're aware of that. I'm just happy that I'm able to be part of that. Like I said, I'm so thankful that I'm able to play at this school. Coming to this school was the best decision of my life.

Q. Will you keep an eye on the Ohio State game on Saturday or not? Are you looking at your phone or what do you do?
SAQUON BARKLEY: When I have my phone, I usually have music on and dancing, having a good time. I'm trying to loosen up before the game.

Am I going to take a look at the Ohio State game? No. But it's 2016, media, you can see the scoreboards and everything. You're going to be a little aware. I feel like as a team we can't focus on that. We can only control what we can control, and that's Michigan State right now. If it's meant for us, the rest of it will take care for itself.

Q. Michigan State is a team that likes to blitz. Talk about what you've seen from them blitz scheme-wise, the importance for you in protection this week.
SAQUON BARKLEY: One thing that I really noticed with their blitz scheme, how their linebackers attack the back. They're really physical. Good way to describe them would be like pitch back linebackers. They're really physical, aggressive. They have some wiggle, but there go-to move would be a bull rush. As a runningback, you have to be aware of that, be low, sink your hips, be ready to punch those guys. Not punch them...

Q. Seems like Indiana was throwing extra man pressures at you guys early in the game. Does that make it harder for you to get into a flow of a game when you have to pass block early in the game and often?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I wouldn't say it has an effect on me. It gives me a mindset of how to approach a game, how the game going to be. It makes me locked in more, want to focus more, because you know they're going to blitz and play man, or blitz and play zone.

If you pick up your guy, get Trace protected, you have the best (indiscernible) in the Big Ten, and those guys are going to make plays for you.

Q. When you decided to come here, the story was that Rutgers was where you were going to go. Were there other places that also recruited you before you chose Rutgers?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Rutgers was the first school to offer me. Growing up as a little kid, I watched more NFL. If I did watch college with my dad, it would be Rutgers. If I would play the NCAA game, I would use Rutgers. That was a school I wanted to go to growing up.

Things change. You grow up. I was able to come here for the Michigan game. Then when Coach Franklin came, that coaching staff came, kind of just fell in love with them. I love what they stand for. I love how you feel like you're in a family environment when you're here. That was the real key and big reason why I wanted to come here.

Other schools, I wasn't really that heavily recruited, which doesn't bother me. My mindset was, All I need is one. Whatever that school was able to offer me, take full advantage of it.

Q. When you verbaled to Rutgers, did you have any other DI offers?
SAQUON BARKLEY: No. I was a sophomore, going into my junior year, the summer, they were the first school to offer me. I kind of committed on spot, but I shouldn't. I went back and talked to my parents about it. I was really the first one in my family ever presented with this opportunity. We didn't really know how to handle it. At my school, it's been a while since someone got a DI school offer.

Like I say, I wanted to play there when I was little, growing up, watching Ray Rice, stuff like that. I kind of jumped on the opportunity without even thinking about it.

Obviously talking to my family later on, me and Coach Franklin, stuff like that, seeing what this school represents not only with football but education, alumni, you'll be set for the rest of your life, kind of was a no-brainer for me to switch.

Q. You mentioned the NFL. Did you have a favorite team when you were growing up?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Yeah. My favorite NFL team was the New York Jets. Still is. I'm a Jets fan.

Q. You mentioned you were an NFL fan more so than a college fan. Do you think that shaped your game at all, your perception of football?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I wouldn't say, like, shaped my game. My dad is a big Jets fan, too. When I was a little kid, I wasn't the little kid that would play with toys. I would sit down with my dad at the age of two and three years old and watch a game with him. As I continued to grow and watch football, guys like Curtis Martin, Thomas Jones, played for the Jets. I wouldn't say that shaped my game, but I would see them do stuff, then I would go out on a Sunday and Monday with my friends and try it.

When I started playing little league football, people compared me to Barry Sanders as a little kid. I would go on YouTube, ask my dad questions about him, he would explain. I was intrigued, like, football was so fun to me, cool to me at that time. I always wanted to learn more about it, learn about the backs.

I guess you could say I guess that shaped me as a player, how I am now. I want to say I learned from this guy and that guy.


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