A week after NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah compared Penn State RB Saquon Barkley to Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, Elliott's former head coach couldn't disagree. Asked about the offseason popularity of the Barkley-Elliott comparison, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer didn't shy away from the notion; in fact, he embraced it.
"It's probably pretty fair. I think he's that quality of a back, that quality of a worker from everything I hear and read. I think that's very fair," Meyer said Monday at Big Ten Media Days.
Barkley is ranked the No. 2 running back to watch in college football by NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein after a spectacular sophomore season in which he ran for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. Jeremiah evaluated three game tapes of Barkley from last season -- against Temple, Michigan and USC -- before drawing a comparison between the Nittany Lions star and the Cowboys' No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
"As a player, he reminds me a lot of Ezekiel Elliott coming out of Ohio State. I thought Elliott was one of the best pass-protecting college running backs I'd ever evaluated and Barkley is right on that level," Jeremiah wrote. "Both guys have that ideal blend of size/speed and they are very instinctive football players."
Meyer coached Elliott for three seasons at OSU before his spectacular rookie season for the Cowboys last year in which he rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns. As for Meyer's up-close looks at Barkley, they've been impressive. Barkley ripped the Buckeyes defense for 194 yards on 26 carries as a freshman in 2015, then averaged 8.3 yards per carry (12 for 99) in a Penn State win over OSU last year.
Barkley's physical strength also is well-documented: he recently bench pressed 30 reps at 225 pounds, has power cleaned 405, and was recently named one of College Football 24/7's most freakish athletes in the game. With Barkley having at least one more season left to play at the college level -- he could enter the 2018 NFL Draft if he files for early eligibility -- it will be awhile before the comparison with Elliott can be made at the pro level.
But for now, Meyer has seen enough to validate it.