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December 29, 2016

Saquon Barkley

Pasadena, California

Q. Saquon, I heard you've been watching a lot of Reggie Bush highlights recently?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Ever since we've been announced playing in the Rose Bowl, for some reason I could not stop watching Reggie Bush highlights. Obviously, one of the greatest college football players ever and one of the greatest running backs ever to play in college. Just exciting to watch him play and be able to play in the type of game he played in, the Rose Bowl, especially when they played Texas in the national championship game.

Q. Is there something you take away or anything you take away from the clips of watching him? Inspiration?
SAQUON BARKLEY: He's a different back, so I just try to be a complete back like him. I felt like he was able to do it all. He could run the ball, pass the ball, catch the ball out of the back field. He was just a threat all around to other teams. As a running back, you want to be an all around back. And that's the goal you try to shoot for.

Q. I've seen in a couple stories written about you this year that you can name 22 or 23 guys who were listed ahead of you in the recruiting -- or the running back class?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Yeah. Like people, I can't name them, but like I have a real good idea of who were in front of me. And it's not like I'm calling people out. It's a little motivation for me coming into my freshman year, wanted to prove those guys wrong. I felt like I was one of the top running backs in the country and I want to prove them wrong and I want to do that in the next level.

Q. Does that still fuel you?
SAQUON BARKLEY: It really don't fuel me as much as it did last year. I'm on to other things. I feel like if you stay there, you're not setting higher goals for yourself. I set higher goals for myself, so that's kind of in the past for me.

Q. Saquon, you know they're going to be focusing on you defensively. What are you looking forward to about this matchup?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I think we match up really well, to be honest. Kind of like how I've been all year. A lot of teams have been focusing on the run because early on in middle of the year, we were really obsessed with the run, not only myself but all the running backs and Trace running the ball.

You focus on one part of our game too much, we beat you with another part of the game. I feel like we've shown we're a balanced team, that we can run the ball, pass the ball. Trace can be explosive throwing the ball and our wide receivers and tight ends are making really explosive plays for us. So if you focus on one thing, it will open up other things for the rest of the guys on offense. So you got to be patient with it. When it comes to you, take advantage of it.

Q. Like the hottest team in the country, winners of nine in a row. Now you have this long playoff before you get to play again. Do you see this as a good thing or a bad thing?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Could be a good thing or a bad thing. The good thing is you get to rest, rest your body up, get a little healthier, but you haven't played football in a little bit. Obviously, been playing football your whole life, but two, three weeks, a month can actually kind of hurt you if you're not doing the right things.

But that's what practice is for, especially these first two practices we're having. Get the bad stuff out of your system, stuff you haven't been doing a while, haven't been catching the ball in a while, just get back to playing football. I think those two first practices really helped us.

Q. You guys have been a second half team all year, especially recently. Obviously you need to start a little faster. What are you trying to do in practice to make sure you start faster in the first half?
SAQUON BARKLEY: We've been trying to do something in practice the whole year to be honest. Just kind of how we've been playing in the game. I think we just got to start by starting off fast by making a big play, being explosive early.

We've been very explosive in the second half. When we're explosive early, we get a full-time. There's only one time this year where we had a full game. That was Iowa, probably one of our best offensive games as a whole.

So if we can get started early, and this team starts early, so we can't get behind them. They're a good team. Like you said, we've been hottest on the east coast. They've been the hottest team on the west coast.

Q. Your ability to hurdle tacklers or would-be tacklers has become a trademark for you. How did you get started doing that were you doing that back in peewee ball?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I don't think I was hurdling people in peewee ball, but it kind of started my junior year in high school. Kind of happened natural. One play that I can remember was against a team called Central Catholic. I was watching a corner back who was pretty good, watching how he was attacking running backs when he was one-on-one, he kept going low. I kind of said in my head already that I'm going to go over top of him. The opportunity presented itself in the game and I was able to do that.

I don't know, I started doing it in college and people loved it, to be honest. I don't do it to entertain them. I just do it because I'm trying to make a play, trying to make that guy miss and try to get in the end zone, help my team out.

Q. Saquon, what's it going to be like when you step out on to that big stage you've always dreamed of?
SAQUON BARKLEY: It actually hasn't hit me yet. I think it will hit me when we touch the field, when we get to Pasadena and see the stadium. This game is special.

Last night, we went to this place and ate ribs. The Beef Bowl, what you call it, and they showed film of how tradition, the tradition of this game, how historical it is. I started getting goose bumps. I'm just really excited to be able to play and honored to play and represent Penn State. I think it will be a blast.

Q. After you committed to Rutgers a couple years back, what did James Franklin do to sway you? What was his pitch to get you to join Penn State?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Funny. Before he offered me, he called me on the phone when he got the job and he told me that, I'm coming to Penn State no matter if he's got to come to my house and knock me upside the head, jokingly.

But the pitch that he sold was, one, he's -- I don't know, like my mom said, he could sell you a stone and make you feel like it's the best stone ever.

But he's really good with his words. But he had a coaching staff to help too. He made you feel like you're home. Made you feel like family. And, also, Penn State itself kind of sold to me. The school there, the tradition there, just was kind of a no-brainer to make that switch and come to Penn State.

Q. Who might get on this team a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, you or Marcus Allen, why would you get a star? Why would he pick you?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I have no clue. That's probably Mike just busting me. I have no clue why I would do that. If I had to say, I would say Marcus Allen -- definitely Marcus Allen. I don't know, he's just kind of the guy, that type of -- I don't know, that demeanor, that type of swagger with him. That's why I would say he would be on there.

Q. What do you think of the decision by Fournette and McCaffrey not to play in a bowl game?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I mean, that's their personal decision, making that decision not to play. They probably talked it over with their family, and their family and the people who are closest to them, and they thought that was the best decision. And they felt that was the best decision for them, and that was the decision they could make, possibly.

Q. You could see their point of view, then?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I mean, you could see -- you can go both ways with that. You can look at it as that they're making the best decision for them. I don't know where they were health-wise. There's a lot of stuff that goes into that. But you can see why they would be doing it and you can see why they shouldn't have done it. That's not my personal decision. That's their decision.

Q. If it came down to you, what are your thoughts on that?
SAQUON BARKLEY: That's too far ahead for me to think about that. Right now, I'm focused on USC.

Q. Saquon, as Trace and the deep ball passing game really got going over the last couple months of the season, how has that opened things up for you?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Opened things up a lot for the running game because it gives you another threat once he showed he can be a threat for the defense running the ball.

Now he's shown he can throw for 400, 500 yards a game, it gives you something to focus on. You can't really load the box. If you load the box, you're going to get hurt in another way.

Q. What did you think when you first saw Trace's home run celebration?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I like it. I like that he does that with his teammate, Billy. It's something a little fun. It's football. Something you've been playing since you were a little kid but you want to have fun with it. He's having fun with it.

Q. Looking back on it now, when all is said and done, the overtime touchdown against Minnesota, how special do you think that was to this season and this team at that point in time?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Well, a play like that, stuff you dream about when you're a little kid, be able to score a game winning touchdown. I wouldn't say that play itself was a turning point. I would say that game itself. Irv made a tremendous catch for us and Connor got us rolling and we all escalated and our play started becoming way better. That's really the game that kind of got us going and we were kind of unstoppable, especially after the Ohio State game.

Q. You look back on it, is that one of the more special touchdowns you scored?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Any touchdown you score is special, especially in Beaver Stadium, but that's probably one of my favorite plays this year to be able to get in the end zone at that specific time. So yeah.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your relationship with Andre. He's our homeboy from Harrisburg, Lancaster. I know you're roommates. You play the same position, compete for the same position. Talk about how that relationship has evolved, I guess.
SAQUON BARKLEY: It was kind of shaky in the beginning. We were roommates. We were friends but we weren't really close. Obviously, we were competing for the same spot. And we're all competitors.

I'd say that we really have grown a lot since the beginning of our freshman year. He's one of my best friends up here. We always crack jokes together. He's hilarious and he brings a different side to the running back for him. I think our friendship has grown a lot since last year.

Q. How is he hilarious? He doesn't give you the impression. Is it deadpan humor, that kind of stuff?
SAQUON BARKLEY: It's like the little things you really wouldn't notice. He's not like up front in the scene and making you laugh or cracking jokes. It's like his remarks and stuff like that, he's a funny guy overall. He's very sarcastic.

Q. What's your theory on the second half success? Everybody's kind of got their own idea. What do you think it is?
SAQUON BARKLEY: One, I would say that we trust each other. And we don't have that -- we don't have quit in us and we know that at any given time, one of us can make a play. Two, I really give credit to the coaches, Joe Mo and the offensive guys really figuring out what they like and setting us up in positions and setting up our play makers in a position to make plays. I would really say that's the key to our second half success.

Q. Are there adjustments at halftime that they really say, hey, this is going to work? We're on top of this?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Yeah. Joe Mo and the offensive guys can come in and make an adjustment and come in the second half and call the play. Sometimes Joe Mo will call a touchdown, and it just happens to happen like that.

Q. This game has so much in common between the two teams. You're both playing really good football right now. Quarterbacks are impressive for first year starters. But you also have in common the fact that there have been some off-field stuff that you've had to overcome with sanctions. Both teams have had to do that. I don't know if that adds anything to this game, but kind of shows how both programs have come.
SAQUON BARKLEY: I wouldn't say add anything to the game. But it just shows you how special the programs are. We're a historical program. They're a historical program. We both have great traditions. And you probably couldn't find other programs in the country that are able to rebound as quickly as we both did.

We've both been through different stuff. But it shows you, gives credit to the players and the coaches that have been through it and has helped us grow as a program and get to be able to play in one of the greatest ball games of them all, in playing the Rose Bowl.

Q. When you look at the USC defense, what impresses you most about them?
SAQUON BARKLEY: They're fast. They're physical. They're a great defense. They have a guy over there who's a play maker, who's very dangerous with Adoree'. The linebacker is really good. The D-tackle is really impressive, also.

But, I mean, they're great players. They're a great defense but we've been facing great defenses all year. We got to come in and focus on our self and focus on the little things.

Q. Who do you think on your team needs to have a big game for you to win?
SAQUON BARKLEY: For us to win, have a big game, I'd say we all, us as a whole. On the offensive side of the ball, we have to be balanced, we have to get the running game going, the passing game going.

The defense, we have to be how we've been all year on defense. Physical, stopping the run, forcing the pass. When they do pass, make them make a mistake, make them pay for it.

Q. What do you think it might be like for you 2:00 on January 2nd when you're on the field? Rose Bowl, you know how iconic a game that has been and probably a game you watched as a kid.
SAQUON BARKLEY: Yeah, walk in there, I'm definitely going to get chills and I'm going to get excited because of how iconic the game is and the players that played there like Reggie Bush, Rich Jones, Matt Leinhart, and watching games like that. And you get the chance to be able to play in the Rose Bowl, it's the kind of stuff you dream about playing in big bowl games with your team.

I'm really going to be excited but can't let myself get overwhelmed. Got to take a deep breath and play my game.

Q. Where did the Joe Mo nickname come from for Coach Moorhead.
SAQUON BARKLEY: That's a really good question. I have no clue.

Q. Is it something, did it catch on as the season went on?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Yeah, it caught on, probably started in spring ball or probably camp and caught on. Joe Mo's been the name. Or I think his Twitter name might be @BallCoachJoeMo. I think that might be his Twitter name.

Q. You guys think you're closer with him than you might be with a normal offensive coordinator? You're not calling him Coach Moorhead, you're calling him Joe Mo.
SAQUON BARKLEY: I'd say our relationship with Joe Mo is really special. Not only with him, but with all the offensive coaches. And I think that's a real key to our success this year. Really family, we really trust each other and we got each other back. So I think that's a real key to our success here.

Q. Going into a game, are you the kind of player that kind of visualizes how it's going to play out, high scoring, low scoring, you're going to run the ball, that kind of thing?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Going into the games, I don't visualize the score. The night before, I kind of visualize plays I'm going to make myself so when the plays or when the opportunity presents itself, I'm ready for it.

Q. You mentioned the chills that you're going to have walking in there. Obviously, you don't want to be too tense. Stay loose. De'Quan said like he wants to check out the walk of fame. Mike said if somebody got a star on the walk of fame, it would be you. Who would be the guy on the team that you think would get a star in Hollywood?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Star in Hollywood, definitely Marcus Allen. Without a doubt. Marcus Allen would get a star, in my opinion. You got to meet the guy to understand. He has that image. I'm not saying Hollywood image, but he can dress well. He's hilarious. I think he could be a comedian. He can dance. I definitely say Marcus Allen.

But the good thing about Marcus, don't let that fool you, because when it comes to football and putting on pads, he really is able to come downfield and hit you pretty hard.

Q. Can you explain his celebration, the hand and the teeth, the finger in the teeth, for us that are over 30?
SAQUON BARKLEY: It's a thing a rapper does named Kodak Black, and it's kind of like just like a little fun thing he does to bring energy to the team.

Q. Can you address the difficulty it was for your team to get here? Michigan, Ohio State, you and some other great teams. Not an easy road to get to this point.
SAQUON BARKLEY: Yeah, definitely not an easy road at all. Especially when you, in my opinion, play the best conference in college football. You got to play Michigan. You got to play Ohio State, Michigan State and so on. So, I mean, we faced a lot of adversity. We were 2-2 at one point and we were able to overcome that. That's kind of what this year has been. We've been down a lot and been able to overcome adversity a lot.

And to get here is special and shows the true heart of this team and shows how special this team is to be able to play in a Rose Bowl this year.

Q. What does it mean to you to have Coach Joe Mo coming back next year? He got interest from other schools for head coaching jobs and decided he's going to be back at Penn State next year.
SAQUON BARKLEY: It means a lot he's able to come back next year. Only one year, we were able to come to the Rose Bowl. Not looking too far ahead, but kind of makes you think like, all right, it's only uphill from now.

So and we have a lot of guys coming back and we're young still. You can't look too far ahead. You got to focus on USC and focus on the game this year. Going out of 2016 -- well, it's going to be 2017. But 2016 with a bang.

Q. So you look at this game as more of, you know a capstone for this year rather than get the ball rolling for next year?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Yeah, I look at more of a capstone of this year, finishing strong and sending the seniors out on a good note.

Q. Saquon, when Coach Joe was hired, what did you think before you got a chance to meet him? What did you hear about him? Do you remember?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I really didn't hear much about him. I found out, oh, we hired a guy from Fordham. I was like, oh, that's interesting. That's not my decision. So, I mean, that's the Coach Franklin's decision and he's going to put us in the best position.

But when you got to meet him, me and him sat in the office for like an hour. If he didn't have to go to a dinner with his family, we probably would have been there much longer. And he was just breaking down the system and breaking down the offensive schemes and going against defensive schemes. I was impressed, like, wow, this guy knows what he's talking about and is actually going to put us in a position to make plays.

The thing he kept focused on was the play makers and space. That's all you want as an offensive guy, be able to get space and be able to make a play and use your talents.

Q. Has this offense surpassed what you expected it to be this season?
SAQUON BARKLEY: No, not at all. We came in camp and Joe Mo put up on the board all the teams, the successful teams in Penn State history and the bowl games they went to and the points they averaged. It's all 30 points or up. There was one year where it was a fluke year where it didn't match up well.

This is where you want to be, obviously want to be in a national championship. If it's not a national championship, you want to be in an elite bowl game, and the Rose Bowl is. We knew what we had to do as an offense and we knew what to do to be able to come here.

Q. You saw what happened with Christian McCaffrey. If you were in their shoes, could you put yourself in their shoes a year from now and what would go into a decision like that? Would it even be a consideration for you?
SAQUON BARKLEY: That's really too far ahead for me to look, to be honest. I'm really just focused on USC, so I really can't answer that question for you.

Q. When you kind of see stuff like that, you're pretty in tune to stuff on social media and that kind of thing. You see that as a college football fan. Everybody's a fan before they're a player. People say that hurts the game. What's your take on that argument? I know you're a fan of the sport.
SAQUON BARKLEY: With them making that decision, I feel like everyone outside, it's easy to judge, be on the outside looking in. Not actually being in their position, in their shoes. You don't know what was going on, what's going on in their family, their health right now. There's a lot of things that factor into that decision. They felt that was the best decision for them to make and they made it.

They're two elite backs, probably going to be drafted in the first round. But, I mean, there's a lot more that goes into that decision than people think. A lot of people can say this and that, this and that. At the end of the day, it's their decision.

Q. You don't look down on them at all for making a decision like that?

Q. James said before they try to bring in different resources to educate you guys about the draft process from the time you're a freshman. Mike was saying that too. What kind of things happened there? I mean, where do you guys get advice from and those kinds of things just about getting educated on the whole process?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Well, I mean, they have like an agency come in and talk to us. But it was just -- not an agency. Our, like, guys, our Penn State guys. And just talk about when that opportunity comes, that they're going to help us out with the resources. But I'm only a sophomore. So I really don't pay attention, like, to all that stuff or get into that.

I feel like, if anything, if you focus on that, you're not going to be able to play to your best capability. So I don't really get focused on that whatsoever or what's going on with my future right now. I'm just focused on being 19 years old, having fun in college, playing for Penn State, enjoying times with my brothers.

Q. Saquon, are you a complete back yet? You've mentioned that all year long. Do you think you're one?
SAQUON BARKLEY: No, I don't think I ever will be in my mind because I think there's always something I can work on, and I'm always trying to find something to work on. So I'm never going to be satisfied until the day I guess I'm done playing football forever.

But, yeah, I mean, I feel like so much stuff I can work on. I feel like there's so much room for improvement. In my personal opinion, I don't think I'm a complete back yet.

Q. What's the next thing you want to get better at?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I want to get my feet better. I want to get my catching ability better, pass-wise and pretty much everything, to be honest. I just want to be the best player I can be. And kind of bad I guess because I'm hard on myself and I criticize myself a lot. But I feel like where I want to be, I want to be one of the greats one day. That's how you got to be.

Q. Whitehall and Copley, what do you want them to know about where you are now?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Well, Whitehall and Copley, I mean, hopefully I'm making them proud being able to play in the Rose Bowl, and hopefully I'm making them proud at Penn State. And I'd like to let them know I'm here because of them and, obviously, my family. But just the support cast and the support system I had out there really helped me be the person and player I am today.

Q. What about the front seven of USC impresses you?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Their defensive line is impressive in general. But their one D-tackle is really good. We got to be aware where he lines up and where he's at. Their one linebacker, I think he was a freshman All-American last year, he was really good too. The one D-end is huge. I mean, looks like a door, like he's huge, like he's really massive.

So, I mean, I'm excited to go against them and just excited to play against a USC defense. Their D coordinator was a former NFL guy, so I'm interested to see how they attack us.

Q. Saquon, what it's like for you? Joe Mo said he's coming back. What's it like when the rumors are flying out there? Is it tough to dismiss it? Do you pay attention to it?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I don't pay attention to it. That's not my decision. Obviously, I would love for everyone to come back, but you've got to look at it as this is their life too. If they feel like that's the best for them to move on, then for them to move on.

But I am excited he's coming back, because, I mean, look where we're at in one year on the offensive side of the ball and we're real young. You can't look too far ahead in the future, kind of just focused on USC, but in the back of your mind, you're like what if? Where can we be next year.

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