Bruce Feldman Names Saquon Barkley College Football's No. 1 'Freak,' Mike Gesicki No. 13

By Nick Polak on July 7, 2017 at 12:55 pm
Nov 5, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Mike Gesicki (88) against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium.
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As he does each year, Bruce Feldman (now of both Fox Sports and Sports Illustrated) has organized his list of the top 40 workout warriors in college football. Of course, a team with as many ridiculously athletic and freakish athletes as Penn State was bound to make the list at least once.

Since James Franklin took over at Penn State, the public has gotten to see a lot more of the happenings behind the scenes in Happy Valley, one of those scenes being inside the weight room. It's not only led us to see how much fun these guys seem to have all the time, but it allows fans a chance to see how absurdly strong and physically gifted some of the Nittany Lions are. Two of those standouts, Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki, were named to Feldman's list, with Barkley being his No. 1 freak in all of college football.

Here's what Feldman had to say about each of them.

No. 1. Saquon Barkley

James Franklin has been around more than his share of Freaky athletes, but the only one he says has been closed to Barkley is his old Maryland tight end Vernon Davis, a guy who weighed in at 254 pounds and ran 4.38, vertical jumped 42 inches and broad jumped 10’8” at the NFL combine.

Everyone around the Nittany Lions program seems to have a unique story about the junior running back. Ask Franklin about his star running back and one of the first things he’ll tell you is about that time when Barkley was in high school and won the 100-meter race at a track meet. The girl who won her portion of the 100 was forced to run that race again because of a timer malfunction. She competed in other events and then didn’t win the 100. Barkley, who didn’t know the girl, opted to give her his gold medal. “When your best player is also one of your best character guys, your team has a chance to do special things."

Barkley arrived in State College as an already eye-popping talent. He told me he was clocked in the 40 at 4.48 in his freshman season. On the field, he also turned heads, gashing an Ohio State defense loaded with future first-rounders for 194 rushing yards en route to almost 1,100 for the season. However, Barkley was far from satisfied.

"My freshman year I was explosive, but I didn’t have true speed,” Barkley told me this spring. "My 20- and 30-yard burst was really good, but when I got to go 60 or 100 I didn’t really have another gear. My being a freshman playing with seniors, I really wanted to increase my 40.”

Mission accomplished. Barkley, who has added 15 pounds (up to 228), has dropped his 40 time to 4.33. This summer, he’s also broken Anthony Zettel’s old school record in the power clean, going for 405, and he did five reps squatting 525 pounds.

"All credit to our strength coaches,” he says. "They’ve done a good job of challenging me.”

No. 13. Mike Gesicki

The Nittany Lions have one of the most exciting offenses in the nation, and the 6’6”, 252-pound senior is a big reason why. A former high school basketball and volleyball star, Gesicki set Penn State records for a tight end in receptions (48) and receiving yards (679) in 2016. He is a match-up nightmare for defenses. He vertical jumps 37 ½ inches and has broad jumped 10’11”. He also power cleans 380 pounds, second most on the team, and bench presses 410.

Do you think Bruce missed anyone that should have made the cut?

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