James Franklin's Trust in Deion Barnes Paying Major Dividends for Penn State

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NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

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The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

James Franklin’s Trust in Deion Barnes Paying Major Dividends for Penn State Football

When former Penn State Football defensive line coach John Scott left Happy Valley for the Detroit Lions in 2023, Penn State head coach James Franklin took a huge leap of faith hiring Penn State grad assistant Deion Barnes as the Nittany Lions defensive line coach.

Now, heading into his second season on the job, the choice to hire Barnes as a first-time defensive line coach is paying dividends for Franklin on the recruiting trail and in the Penn State defensive line room.

James Franklin, Penn State Football, Penn State Football Recruiting
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

When the Penn State defensive line coaching job came open in February 2023, Franklin had a massive choice that could affect the Nittany Lions program for years to come: hire an experienced defensive line coach and risk losing a rising coaching star in grad assistant Deion Barnes or turn a major power conference defensive line coaching position over to a young coach with only three years of graduate assistant experience.

Franklin opted for the latter giving Deion Barnes a major boost to begin his coaching career and trusting him with one of the best defensive lines in the Big Ten.

One season later, Penn State Football saw two defensive ends be selected in the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL draft and one or two more projected to be selected in the first few rounds of the 2024 NFL draft (Abdul Carter and Dani Dennis-Sutton). Penn State also led the nation in sacks and tackles for a loss in 2023.

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How Deion Barnes is Elevating Penn State Defensive Line

Heading into 2024, Penn State’s defensive line looks to once again be a major strength for the Nittany Lions defense.

Headlined by two stud defensive ends in Abdul Carter and Dani Dennis-Sutton who are getting first-round buzz for the 2025 NFL draft, Penn State’s defensive line does not look like a position group to fall off despite losing both starting defensive ends Chop Robinson and Adisa Isaac to the NFL.

Behind the starters, even with the injury to Zuriah Fisher, Barnes will have plenty to work with in fifth year seniors Amin Vanover and Smith Vilbert and rising star sophomore Jameial Lyons.

On the inside, Penn State returns a ton of experience in rising sixth-year seniors Dvon J Thomas (formerly Dvon Ellies) and Hakeem Beamon, fifth-year senior Coziah Izzard, and junior Zane Durant. With plenty to work with both in top-end talent and depth pieces, Barnes will look to continue the high level of play that Penn State Football has seen out of the defensive line room over the past few seasons in Manny Diaz’s defense under Tom Allen’s new look Penn State defense.

On the recruiting trail, however, Barnes work has arguably been even more impressive for Penn State Football.


Deion Barnes Proving Mettle on The Recruiting Trail

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Penn State defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton (33) sacks Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy in the first half of an NCAA football game at Beaver Stadium Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in State College, Pa.

In his second recruiting class under the title of defensive line coach, Deion Barnes has assembled an extremely impressive class of three four-star defensive ends from around the country and a three-star defensive tackle out of Florida since the start of June.

In just two and a half weeks, Barnes has brought in defensive ends Jayden Woods, Max Granville, and Cortez Harris and defensive tackle Randy Adirika on board Penn State’s 2025 recruiting class. In building the 2025 class, Barnes branched out from Penn State’s typical recruiting territory of the DMV and Pennsylvania to land three of the four prospects out of Kansas (Woods), Texas (Granville), and Florida (Adirika). Barnes has also Penn State in the mix to potentially flip an Ohio State commit from Pennsylvania after an official visit in June.

In the 2024 class, Barnes pulled two four-star defensive ends (Mylachi Williams and Jaylen Harvey) and a pair of three-star defensive linemen Xavier Gilliam and T.A. Cunningham. Three of the four hailed from Penn State’s typical recruiting territory in the DMV and Pennsylvania with Cunningham being the exception out of Georgia.

Both on the field and on the recruiting trail, Deion Barnes has been an excellent asset for Penn State over his year and a half on the job. As he continues to hone his skills in recruiting and as a technician coaching, James Franklin’s trust in a rising star will continue to pay dividends for Penn State for years to come.

MORE: Key Takeaways from Penn State’s June Recruiting Hot Streak

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