The Penn State Nittany Lions enter 2013 without several of last year’s leaders on defense. Linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges and defensive tackle Jordan Hill have all moved on. That means that someone else is going to have to step up for the Nittany Lions on the defensive side of the ball.
Defensive end Deion Barnes, though just in his second season, fits that mold perfectly. He brings an excellent mix of both talent and experience.
During his 2012 freshman season, Barnes stood out as a key contributor for the Nittany Lions. He made 26 total tackles, including 10 for a loss. He also led the team with six sacks.
Barnes’ stellar season resulted in him being named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
He will now be expected to anchor a Penn State defensive line that not only loses its leader in Hill, but also another starter in Sean Stanley. In fact, a total of five starters are gone from a defense that finished fourth in the conference in total defense a season ago.
Barnes has already shown the ability to be a star at the collegiate level. His ability to get to the quarterback and break up plays in the backfield can be disruptive to any opposing offense. That is going to have to continue in 2013. He’ll need to be a vocal leader as well as top contributor.
Defense is always important to a team’s success. For Penn State in 2013, that may be even more important as the offense adjusts to a new quarterback.
The Nittany Lions are used to getting strong performances from their defense. If that trend is going to continue this season, Barnes is going to have to play a big part in that. Based on what’s he’s shown so far in his young career, he’s more than up to the challenge.