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PSU DE Barnes says, "I'm not listening" if other teams recruit him
October 3, 2012 - Cory Giger
Deion Barnes often looks like a future star, and you can bet every college coach in America sees it from the redshirt freshman defensive end.
It's possible that, at season's end, Barnes could be the most coveted free agent on Penn State's roster when coaches come back around trying to lure transfers. None have been contacting him so far, and that's exactly how he wants it.
"I don't think they should be calling any of us," Barnes said. "I know myself, personally, if they call, I'm not listening. I'm focusing on helping my team win."
Barnes, a Philadelphia native, was contacted by Temple during the summer after the NCAA sanctions were levied. He told the Owls he's "comfortable" at PSU and, after weighing all his options, he decided to stay put.
Barnes, and other young standouts on the Nittany Lions' roster, once again will have to go through the recruiting process when the season ends. The success of the PSU program over the next few years could depend largely on how many players take advantage of the NCAA's loose transfer rules -- which run until next August -- and Barnes will be one of the main focal points during that process.
"I actually haven't been bothered by any coaches [during the season]," Barnes said. "I'm glad I haven't because I wouldn't listen to it right now. I'm focused on Penn State and winning right now."
The fact that Barnes could be receiving a ton of attention after the season is a testament to how far he's come in his second year in the program.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson knows a thing or two about developing star players, and he recently admitted Barnes' play "has probably been a surprise."
"He had some brightness during his freshman year, but he just wasn't quite strong enough to put in the rotation, so we decided to redshirt him," Johnson told gopsusports.com.
Barnes has benefited greatly from the new strength and conditioning program and, as Johnson said, has been a pleasant surprise earning a starting job at defensive end.
The 6-foot-4, 246-pounder leads the Lions with 3 1/2 sacks and with 4 1/2 tackles for loss, plus he's tied for the top spot with two forced fumbles.
Again, he's just a redshirt freshman, which would make him a valuable commodity to any other top-flight program looking to poach PSU players at season's end.
"The way he gets off the edge, the way he understands where the quarterback sets up and the way he tries to strip the ball shows his potential," PSU coach Bill O'Brien said. "You know he has a bright future."
It will be up to O'Brien and Johnson to convince Barnes that his future should involve remaining at Penn State.
Barnes understands the significance of PSU keeping the top young players like himself.
"It's going to be very important," he said. "I hope we'll be able to have a good team next year, so I definitely think that's important."
Barnes is a member of the self-proclaimed "Supa Six," along with running back Bill Belton, cornerback Adrian Amos, left tackle Donovan Smith, receiver Allen Robinson and tight end Kyle Carter. Keeping all six of them would be big for the Lions, but only time will tell if that happens.
"I know me and the Supa Six, we're focused on this season right now," Barnes said. "We told everybody that we're going to be returning, and hopefully the other guys will stay."
Barnes believes he has gotten "way better since the first game" of the season, and he knows that with more playing time comes bigger expectations -- even from himself.
"My expectation level is different now because people are expecting way more from me," he said. "I think I transitioned good, but I need to do better.
"It motivates me a lot because my team needs me," he added. "I've got to be able to perform every time I go out there."
As with many young defensive ends, Barnes excels rushing the quarterback but needs work stopping the run. He sees that he's "not as good as I want to be" in that department, so it has been an emphasis in practice.
"We are just trying to make Deion a complete player -- to play the run, to play the pass -- and that is the challenge for young players until they get developed," Johnson said. "He has done a great job, though. He has stepped in and been in some battles."
Barnes already has shown he's capable of making game-changing plays as a freshman, so keeping him around for three more years would be greatly beneficial for Penn State's defense.
The coaching staff has to be encouraged by his comments indicating his passion for staying.
"The future is really bright for him," Johnson said.