He’s the heir apparent.

You’ve heard that about Miles Sanders before and inevitably, you’ll hear it again. It comes with the territory when one replaces a legend like Saquon Barkley. Sanders knows that.

“People say to me, ‘Do you want to be the next Saquon?’ or, ‘You’ve got to be the next Saquon,’” Sanders said after Saturday’s spring game via The Morning Call. “At the end of the day, I’m not Saquon. I’m just going to be me and play the way I can play. That’s it.”

Sanders is right. He isn’t Saquon. That’ll still be true this fall if/when he stops on a dime, leaves multiple B1G defenders in the dust and scampers for a 75-yard touchdown run.

But we’ll still hear the “shades of Saquon Barkley” comment on the broadcast. We might even get a side-by-side clip of Barkley and Sanders breaking off long runs just to show their similarities. They have similarities on and off the field.

Both are freakishly talented backs who hail from the Northeast. They committed to James Franklin before Penn State became what it is today, which is an annual top-10 program until further notice. Barkley helped establish that. Now with Barkley off to the NFL, it’s time for Sanders and the rest of the 2018 squad turn to uphold the high bar that was set the last two years.

Just don’t set the bar at a Barkley height for Sanders.

Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

That’s not to say that Sanders shouldn’t have some big-time expectations to become an All-B1G tailback as a first-year starter. After all, it was he — not Barkley — who arrived in State College as the nation’s No. 1 running back recruit back in 2016. That helped ease the minds of Penn State fans as they braced for Barkley’s inevitable early departure to the NFL.

But let’s be clear. Just because Sanders followed Barkley doesn’t mean he should be expected to repeat his accomplishments.

Barkley, as we all know, was a transcendent player. He did things on the football field that most of us have never seen before (the Iowa hurdle when he stayed on his feet despite getting hit midair was unforgettable). As decorated as Barkley was while he was in college, I have a feeling that we’ll look back on his career with an even fonder appreciation for just how special he was.

I won’t be waiting on pins and needles for Sanders to join that company. It’s not fair to him, or really anyone.

What is fair is expecting him to be a three-down back who thrives with a full workload and a Heisman Trophy contender to play off of. This offense belongs to Trace McSorley. He’s the one who will be atop scouting reports all year.

Sanders obviously won’t go unnoticed, either. In a limited sample size — he averaged 28 carries for 188 yards his first two seasons — we saw that he can be a perfect fit in the Joe Moorhead offense (which now belongs to Ricky Rahne). Sanders works well outside the hashes, he catches passes out of the backfield and his pass-blocking improved. So did his ball security.

That’s a quartet of skills that few running backs in the country have. That’s what could prevent Penn State from skipping a beat after losing Barkley.

Still, that doesn’t mean Sanders will do all the things that Barkley did.

He was the true freshman who hurdled over three defenders from the 4-yard line. He was the sophomore who left longtime national columnists in awe with his Rose Bowl run for the ages. And yeah, I don’t know if we’ll see Sanders or any college back pull off something quite like that Iowa play in the beginning of Barkley’s junior year (via Big Ten Network):

It’s those moments that helped make Barkley a household name and one of the top NFL running back prospects of the last decade.

Sanders doesn’t have to be that guy to get Penn State where it wants to go. As incredible as Barkley was, there are actually some areas where Sanders can be the better back. It’s little things like not taking so many losses and not always going for the home run play. Sanders can do an even better job wearing down the defense and gassing them by the fourth quarter.

Who knows? Maybe Sanders can even put up more 100-yard rushing games than Barkley did in 2017.

If we’re in November and Sanders is putting up numbers and doing things that are comparable to Barkley, by all means. Let’s compare away. Perhaps by season’s end we’ll be talking about Sanders’ NFL future and how his backup will have to live up to the Sanders/Barkley bar that was set sky-high in State College.

In the meantime, though, I’m lowering the bar a bit.

James Franklin admitted that Penn State was spoiled to have a back like Barkley the last few years. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if by next year college football fans were calling the Lions “spoiled” for having Barkley and Sanders.

It’s been nearly four years since Sanders gave his verbal commitment to Franklin’s program. It’s finally Sanders’ turn to build a legacy.

His own legacy.