Barney Headed to Lions' Fiefdom

Juco tackle anxious to play for highly regarded Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson. Barney committed to PSU on an official visit.

Tarow Barney came onto Penn State's radar later than most recruits in the 2014 cycle. That didn't preclude him from quickly building a strong relationship with his position coach, though.

The Northwest Mississippi Community College defensive tackle received an offer from Penn State in late October. By the end of November, his recruitment was over, as he gave his verbal word to PSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson and head coach Bill O'Brien before leaving University Park at the end of an official visit Sunday.

It's not unique that Johnson, a longtime Lion assistant with a personality and style adored by players, parents and fans alike, helped sway a future trenchman to wear blue and white. But the approach was unique to, and worked, for Barney, who will enroll in January and have three years to play two seasons once he arrives.

"It had that feeling there," Barney said while awaiting a flight back to Mississippi Sunday. "I had that feeling that it could be it the minute I got off the plane [Friday]. [Johnson] is the best at what he does, and he can get me to be the best player I can be and help get me to that next level.

"He's a great person, and [Penn State head coach Bill] O'Brien is a good coach. I think I can be the answer to where he's trying to take Penn State football, and that he can give me a spot to compete to play."

Barney is destined to play the three technique at Penn State, a position that comes with high expectations considering what Johnson has churned out there. Current Seattle Seahawk Jordan Hill and graduating senior DaQuan Jones are just two examples, but there are plenty more.

The 6-foot-3, 285-pound prospect cited his pass rushing abilities when asked why he'd fit into that spot best. Of course, he'll have to earn his playing time, but he brings with him a skill set that led to 36 tackles this fall, including 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. With Jones finishing up his eligibility redshirt junior Kyle Baublitz departing to begin a career in education, Barney figures to see plenty of snaps out of the gate.

The tackle first informed Johnson he would be committing at the conclusion of watching film with the assistant, and then proceeded upstairs to chat with O'Brien. The second-year head coach began selling the program and what it could offer Barney, but the tackle cut him off. His mind was already made up.

"[Johnson] got excited. He jumped up and hugged me three times, and told me it made his day," Barney recalled. "He was so excited. Then I went up and told Coach O'Brien, and he was ecstatic.

"He was telling me about if I came to Penn State, and then I told him I want to come to Penn State. He jumped up on his feet, gave me a handshake and congratulated me."

Atmosphere and discovering a family feeling in Happy Valley were other factors that pushed Barney, who will major in computer science, to make his commitment. He also spoke with academic advisers during his three-day stay, and together they broke down his options academically.

While observing the Penn State-Nebraska game Saturday, he noticed that Penn State's defensive line rarely, if ever, quit on a play, and that it played hard and physical on each snap. Soon, he will work into that mold, too.

"My pass rushing abilities are strong, but I want to get bigger in the weight room, and get better with using my hands more on the field," he said. "I want to get more explosive on the field, and take in everything all the coaches have to say to become the best player I can."

The 16th verbal commit, Barney is the first juco player to intend to enroll at Penn State since quarterback Tyler Ferguson boarded a plane from California last January. State is not done recruiting the tackle position just yet, as it remains in the hunt for Abraham Lincoln's (Brooklyn, N.Y.) Thomas Holley and Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach, Va.) four-star Derrick Nnadi. It also has Millville (N.J.) tackle Antoine White in the fold, and he intends to enroll early, as well.

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