The gigantic Virginia lineman standing across from Penn State defensive end Deion Barnes shuffled toward the pocket.

Noticing Morgan Moses' steps weren't deep enough, Barnes slipped around the edge, giving himself a chance to accelerate before the 6-foot-6 right tackle extended his arms.

Quarterback Phillip Sims lunged into the pocket. An opening emerged. Barnes angled his arm, using a swift, decisive motion, stunning Sims before he could release the ball.

Barnes, a redshirt freshman, has made some bold plays in his first two games as a Nittany Lion. But it's the fourth-quarter sack and forced fumble against the Cavaliers that have many buzzing.

Linebacker Michael Mauti scooped the ball. The Nittany Lions parlayed the turnover into a field goal.

Barnes was searching for something bigger.

"We needed a turnover at that time," he said Wednesday. "I hit his arm and I was looking to score, but Mauti picked it up."

In a front seven loaded with experienced players, it's Barnes providing the biggest early-season jolt. The Philadelphia native leads the Nittany Lions with three sacks.

"This guy is one of our best players," coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's a great young player with a tremendous future. He's a really good pass rusher. He's athletic, he's tall, he has really good length and a knack for stripping the football."

And he plays with audacity.


The 6-foot-4, 246-pound Barnes hails from Philadelphia, where he attended Northeast High School, which plays in the city's Public League. Lacking the glitz and resources of the city's famed Catholic League, the Public League often receives less fanfare.

Barnes, the lone Public League player on Penn State's roster, brings a mentality cultivated at home to collegiate fields.

"Coming from the Public League you have a chip on your shoulder," he said. "A lot of people didn't think I was going to be good."

One important group saw significant potential in Barnes -- college recruiters. He received scholarship offers from every Big Ten school besides Ohio State.

He trimmed his list to Penn State and Georgia, selecting the Nittany Lions because he felt comfortable with the school, campus and defensive line coach Larry Johnson. Penn State's depth at defensive end allowed him to redshirt last season, a move that Barnes didn't initially endorse.

"As a football player, nobody really likes sitting out a year," he said. "But looking at it now, it definitely did help because I got bigger and stronger. I adjusted to school and the daily schedule every week. I can look back and say it was a good choice."

Barnes didn't ease into this season. He started the opener against Ohio University. He didn't start against Virginia, but Pete Massaro's shoulder injury led to Barnes being on the field for most of the game's big plays. He responded by collecting two fourth-quarter sacks.

"He's quick of the edge," cornerback Adrian Amos said. "He adds a lot of pass rush to the defense."

Flustering quarterbacks comes naturally to Barnes. He developed into a tenacious pass rusher midway through his high school career and lists former Penn State standout Tamba Hali and New York Giants stalwart Justin Tuck as two players he tries to emulate.

Barnes plays one of Penn State's most stacked positions. Massaro and Sean Stanley are veterans. Anthony Zettel and C.J. Olaniyan, like Barnes, were highly-touted recruits.

After his fast start, it's tough envisioning Johnson and defensive coordinator Ted Roof not turning to Barnes in key situations.

"He very scrappy and he's very athletic," linebacker Glenn Carson said. "A lot of offensive linemen are going to have trouble blocking him just from his athleticism and his hard-nosed style of play."