Penn State DL Deion Barnes entering the NFL Draft.— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) December 31, 2014
Last time walking out this tunnel. I want to thank the Penn State family for being with me through the… http://t.co/SjdINahXDp— Deion Barnes (@DBarnes_18) December 31, 2014
Another Penn Stater has chosen to skip his final year of eligibility for the Nittany Lions, and enter the NFL Draft. Unlike Donovan Smith, Deion Barnes is choosing to go pro with his stock possibly at an all time high. After breaking out as a redshirt freshman, Barnes suffered a bit of a down year as a redshirt sophomore, as he was often double teamed and taken out of plays. This year though, partially thanks to the dominant duo of Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel on the inside, Barnes once again reached star status on the Penn State defense. He notched a very solid six sacks (unofficially), and was able to make a difference in the run game as well.
Barnes truly has taken his play to the #NextLevel, after setting a lofty ten sack goal for his sophomore season. He has become the type of player who is able to contain rushers on the edge, provide a tenacious push towards the quarterback, and be a leader on the line. With another year of work in Bob Shoop's defense, he may have even been able to morph himself into a top ten pick, based on how highly the NFL values pass rushers. Even as things are now though, if Deion has a strong performance at Penn State's Pro Day, and the combine (if invited), he could find his name being called on day one. Barnes graduated this past December with a degree in parks and tourism management.
When asked, James Franklin had the following quote to offer.
Our staff wants to thank Deion for all he's done here at Penn State and we wish him all the best in the NFL. Deion has been a great contributor for us on the field and earned his degree earlier this month. We're excited to watch him take the next step.
Also worth mentioning, is that with Barnes' departure, Kyle Carter is the only remaining member of the Supa Six on Penn State's roster. Allen Robinson jumped to the NFL last year, Adrian Amos and Bill Belton used up their eligibility this year, Donovan Smith declared for the draft this week, and now Barnes will do the same. Carter has the most to gain by sticking around for his last season, but could he be tempted to leave with the rest of his crew? Only time will tell.
Looking ahead, missing Barnes shouldn't lead to any decrease in the quality of Penn State's defense, but that doesn't mean they won't feel the loss. Coach Spencer will go from having a senior and a redshirt junior as his starting defensive ends, to a far more inexperienced group. Garrett Sickels will be counted on to earn his spot on one side, and the other side will likely fall to 2014 signee, Torrence Brown. Franklin and Shoop both raved about Brown's play in practice all season long, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him come out and earn a starting spot. Both Sickels and Brown have massive potential, but replacing the production of Deion Barnes right away will be tough.
On the recruiting side of things, Penn State currently has a commitment from Ryan Buchholz (Malvern, PA), who will now likely be able to challenge for playing time right away. He has fantastic size, and should be able to hold his own against D1 tackles from day one. Kamonte Carter is another name who could shift down to defensive end, despite having the versatility to also play linebacker. Shareef Miller is another name to watch, as the three star defensive end out of Philadelphia is very high on Penn State and could be even more tempted to jump on board with playing time being even more attainable now than it was earlier today. Penn State also holds a commitment from 2016 five star defensive end Shane Simmons (DeMatha Catholic, MD).
We'll have more analysis on Deion Barnes as his NFL potential in the coming months. We wish him nothing but the best, and hope he has a long and prosperous NFL career! Good luck, Deion!