Penn State football’s Deion Barnes has seamless transition into new role

Story posted August 24, 2023 in CommRadio, Sports by Micheal Bolger

With a full year under second-year defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s command, the Nittany Lions defense looks to gear back up for another impressive campaign in 2023.

Although the blue and white lost a couple of key pieces on the defensive line James Franklin has all the faith in a former Penn State player turned coach.

Deion Barnes, a former New York Jet and Kansas City Chief, has made his way back to Happy Valley to take on his first college coaching experience.

Barnes was hired by Penn State in 2020 as a graduate assistant. As he worked with Penn State stars like Odafe Oweh, Shaka Toney and PJ Mustipher over the course of three years, Barnes’s reputation began to build.

Then in the spring of 2023, Coach Franklin hired Barnes as the defensive line coach of the blue and white after John Scott Jr. left for the NFL.

Since then, Barnes has settled into his new position and gained an entire offseason training camp worth of experience to his name. Even with the title change, however, Barnes said after Wednesday’s practice that the respect towards him hasn’t changed.

“They always had the same respect for me when I was a GA,” Barnes said. “They listened to me. It’s just I wasn’t a voice in the room. Now, they go into the beat of my drum, and I wouldn’t say it really changed that much.”

While the respect hasn’t changed, the transition from general assistant to assistant coach usually is something that takes time. However, Coach Franklin said that Barnes has handled it all well.

“He’s very transparent and very authentic with them,” Franklin said. “He’s probably way ahead of where most people would expect and anticipate. That’s coaching guys on the field, that’s meeting room expectations, that’s teaching schemes, that’s recruiting.”

Despite the changes around him, Barnes said he has consistently approached everything the same throughout the preseason. This style, amongst other aspects, is a big reason why his success has been so prevalent across the field and why he expects his players to do no less.

“My style is more demanding, and it’s just about being accountable and giving your all every day,” the first-year assistant coach said. “I don’t accept anything less. The mission is always staying the same and that’s every day we come out here to give it our all.”

That pressure could forge stars on an already deep and talented defensive line that includes Adisa Isaac and Chop Robinson leading the way. Even so much so that a redshirt sophomore believes that the line could hold up to be one of the best.

“I think we may have the most talented room in the nation,” Defensive tackle Jordan van den Berg said. “It’s highly competitive, highly athletic. Everyone’s pushing each other every day.”

Micheal Bolger is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, please email