Deion Barnes, DE (6-foot-4, 246 pounds)
Barnes arrived on campus last year as a "athletic," "raw" player. He's spent the past year focused on his strength, speed and technique and has added about 15 pounds.
Barnes has "a real drive to improve," as one observer explained. He's shown that from the outset of his career at PSU, earning a coveted travel spot to the Indiana game last year. Such spots are only given to redshirt players to excel on the practice field.
He's also made strides with his understanding of the scheme and "communicating with his tackle." In fact, a few observers have alluded to forgetting that he's "only a redshirt freshman," given his abilities and progress.
Overall, Barnes has made a strong impression with his progress in the weight room and on the practice field.
Strength: Barnes has benefited from working with new strength coach Craig Fitzgerald. His strength and "control of his size" continue to improve as they did last year. He has a "much better handle managing the corner" and "just has to consistently bring his strength and technique together."
Speed: Despite his size, Barnes is "quick off the blocks" and is said to be "a handful on the edge." He has decent agility and footwork, but has continued to focus on improving this aspect of his play.
Technique: His focus has been on improving his play against the run and has worked with D-line coach Larry Johnson on refining his fundamentals in that regard. Barnes has had impressive streaks on his pass rush and has been relying more on his speed to "disrupt the pocket."
Attitude: Barnes originally dealt with some doubts toward his move to Penn State given the cultural shift from his native Philadelphia to State College. But now he is said to be fully committed to Penn State, saying, "At first it was hard, but you get used to it. It's like being home. I consider this home right now. I'm used to it and I love it up here." Barnes is also said to be "eager to improve," and in that regard is focused on the feedback he gets to better his play. "He typically picks up on recommendations very quickly. I think that is why he's improved at such a fast pace," according to one observer.
Impact: Barnes began training camp behind senior Pete Massaro. However, when Massaro had lingering pain from ACL surgery last year, Barnes received significantly more snaps. Look for Massaro to start in the opener against Ohio but for Barnes to log at least as many — if not more — snaps in Johnson's rotation. Bill O'Brien has said he wants to be careful with how much Massaro plays, so Penn State is fortunate to have a talent like Barnes ready to step in and pick up the slack.
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