“I’ll share a text with you.”
Sitting in the corner of the Beaver Stadium media room, Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s eyes lit up when he was asked about the “Total Commitment” award defensive end Deion Barnes won at the end of spring practice. Shoop looked for his phone as he talked about Barnes.
“He’s a quiet leader,” Shoop said going from pocket to pocket. “He’s not the most vocal guy and I think Deion has been beat up a little bit. He’s the Big Ten Rookie of The Year two years ago and I keep hearing people say to me that he didn’t have as good of a year last year and things like that. People might have game planned to him, slid protections, chipped to him, things like that. I noticed when they did that CJ (Olaniyan) had a better year than people said he was going to have. Things like that.”
And Shoop is right, Barnes has had massive — and somewhat unreasonable — expectations hanging over him following his freshman season and he simply couldn’t meet them. While fans may look at Barnes’ stats as a cut and dry measure of failure, as Shoop mentioned, teams looked for ways to neutralize his talents. It was a point former head coach Bill O’Brien tried to hammer home throughout last season.
The result wasn’t an entirely negative one for Penn State as it opened the door for the emergence of Olaniyan on the opposite end of the defensive line. While Barnes was held to 20 tackles and two sacks, Olaniyan exploded for a 39 tackle, 5 sack season.
This season Penn State should have the advantage again. With Barnes and Olaniyan now both established pass rushers on opposite ends of the line it will limit how much an offense can gang up on either player. So Barnes has just kept grinding away all spring long, waiting for the chance to go out and prove himself again.
“He keeps his head down, his mouth shut, he’s the consummate professional,” Shoop said. “He and (defensive line coach) Sean Spencer have developed a really good relationship and he has really taken to helping the younger players, taking them aside. He does the things behind the scenes that to the naked eye you might not notice. He’s watching film, he’s taking notes, and I feel like on and off the field he has done just an outstanding job. He has put himself in a position — to me — he’s going to be an All-Big Ten performer.”
“It’s funny that you asked about the (Total Commitment) award,” Shoop said still searching through his phone before finally finding what he was looking for, tilting it toward those around him.
“Because we’ve had these conversations about him and the season and he was texting me about ‘Coach I love the schemes, and the packages, I’m 100% in. Coach I’ve got your back.’ Things like that. And it was just really cool to get that text from him.”
If Penn State is going to make it through another season of NCAA sanctions “Total Commitment” will be key, and so far it looks like Barnes is helping lead that charge.