Nick Singleton and Saquon Barkley: How Deep Do the Comparisons Go?

Story posted September 16, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Zach Donaldson

Nick Singleton has arrived, folks.

Last weekend against Ohio, Singleton exploded onto the college football scene to the tune of 179 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries, dazzling in his first game inside Beaver Stadium.

Those 179 yards and an average of just under 18 YPC was more than enough for Singleton to surpass Saquon Barkley as the record holder for the most yards in a Beaver Stadium debut. Because of their impressive performances, both won Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors as well.

Barkley scooted for 115 yards and a touchdown on 12 touches in his Beaver Stadium debut, while Singleton did that and more, setting the Penn State record for rushing yards in a game for a true freshman. Singleton didn’t hurdle anyone, but there are plenty other parallels to be made between Penn State’s two most highly-touted tailbacks in the last decade.

Singleton has been linked to Barkley since his commitment to Penn State. Barkley was even the one to announce Singleton as football’s national Gatorade Player of the Year. Their sky-high expectations also connect them, as early on in his career, Singleton has the same type of hype surrounding him as Barkley did – he’s expected to be the best in the nation.

Singleton measures in at about 6-foot-0, 220 lbs. with Barkley being 6-foot-0 and weighing around 220 lbs. when he was a freshman at Penn State also. We all know about Barkley’s strength and how much he can lift, as he went viral for his 405-pound power clean when he was a junior. Well, as a true freshman, Singleton isn’t far behind, smashing a 365-pound clean this past summer.

In terms of pure talent, athleticism and potential, Singleton and Barkley can be compared all day long. But in terms of play style, they’re very different.

Singleton is a powerful, violent runner whereas Barkley is more of a finesse, patient runner. I mentioned the hurdle in Barkley’s debut earlier – Singleton would likely lower his shoulder in that scenario. Both are good finishers, but in different ways as Singleton runs downhill while Barkley more so utilizes his vision and elusiveness to find an opening.

The best way to put it is that Singleton runs north-south, while Barkley runs east-west.

Regardless, both are extremely explosive and possess game-breaking speed. Singleton was very Saquon-esque on his two long touchdowns versus Ohio, in which he bounced both to the outside and went the distance for 70 and 44 yards, respectively. Both backs also have the plant-and-go burst to beat defenders around the edge when necessary, and Singleton’s was on fully display against the Bobcats.

James Franklin noticed it as well and had some interesting comments postgame following the team’s 46-10 victory.

“[Singleton's] got such good speed that maybe in years past when the read would be cloudy and you'd want to bounce it, we didn't always have the speed to get to the edge like he does,” Franklin said. “He showed the ability to do that and what may typically be three or four yards, has a chance to be eighty with him.”

The last time Penn State had someone who could do that was when Barkley donned blue and white. Miles Sanders was good, so was Journey Brown – but neither had the ability to take over a game like Singleton and Barkley do.

It’s hard not to see No. 26 when watching No. 10.

In the game following Barkley’s breakout versus Buffalo, he exploded for 195 yards and two touchdowns against Rutgers. Singleton will obviously have a tougher matchup against the Auburn Tigers of the SEC, but if he too can best last week’s performance (or even match it), that’ll be a huge boost to the Nittany Lions who will need all the help they can get in their toughest matchup of the year thus far.

Penn State (2-0) and Auburn (2-0) face off on Saturday, Sept. 17 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, both seeking to hand the other its first loss of the season.

Zach Donaldson is a fifth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email