Gaskin on Barkley: "It's kind of incredible how big he is and how strong he is that he can just put his foot in the ground and go the other way."

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Ask his Washington teammates, and they’ll tell you Myles Gaskin is one of the best-kept secrets in college football.

From afar, the Huskies’ star does have a one notable secret admirer.

“I play college football, but I’m also a fan of college football,” Saquon Barkley, Penn State’s star running back, said Thursday. “So I like to watch as many other games as I can, and (Gaskin) is someone I really enjoy watching.”

Gaskin is impressed too by what he’s seen from Barkley.

“It’s kind of incredible how big he is and how strong he is that he can just put his foot in the ground and go the other way,” Gaskin said.

The running backs are two of the biggest reasons their teams are here preparing for Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium (1 p.m. PT, ESPN).

A comparison of the raw numbers for the running backs during their junior season this year:

Barkley: 199 carries, 1,134 yards, 5.70 ypc, 16 TD; 47 receptions, 594 yards, 12.6 ypr, 3 TD.

Gaskin: 208 carries, 1,282 yards, 6.16 ypc, 19 TD; 18 receptions, 228 yards, 12.7 ypr, 3 TD.

At 5-feet-11 and 230 pounds, Barkley is the bigger and, Gaskin conceded, faster back, which is why many are projecting him as a top-five pick in next spring’s NFL draft.

Gaskin, 5-10 and 191 pounds, is coming off one of the best games of his career, a 25-carry, 192-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Huskies’ Apple Cup rout of Washington State.

“I woke up thinking about him this morning,” Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry said. “He’s just a very dynamic back. We’ve seen backs similar, that model. But I don’t know that we’ve seen one as good at it, just the cuts and the explosiveness, the balance, sees the hole, can catch the ball out of the backfield. Super impressed with him.”

Barkley, also a standout returner on special teams, finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting earlier this month.

UW coaches and teammate say Gaskin has been perennially underrated in his career.

“Myles, he’s a unique back. You see him and see his size, he doesn’t ‘wow’ you,” UW defensive lineman Vita Vea said. “But when he’s out there playing he’s, in my opinion, one of the best. I feel like he should have been a Heisman candidate. I might be biased, because he’s my teammate and I go against him. He’s a well-balanced back and it’s hard for me to take him down.”