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Coach James Franklin breaks down his new defensive line coaching hire

The Nittany Lions’ head coach broke down his newest coaching hire on Tuesday during his first spring presser.

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Coach James Franklin
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin speaks in a press conference after defeating the Utah Utes in the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — On Tuesday, Penn State’s head football coach took to the podium for the first time this spring. There, coach James Franklin broke down what new DL coach Deion Barnes brings to the table for Nittany Lion football moving forward.

What strengths does Deion Barnes bring to the table for Penn State football?

Deion Barnes — a former standout Nittany Lion turned coach — has been on Franklin’s staff for a number of years now. Barnes was one of Franklin’s first recruits during his time in State College, and now, will serve as a major position coach on Franklin’s 2023 coaching staff. Here is what Penn State’s head man had to say about his new defensive line coach:

“Deion’s got his collegiate experience here at Penn State and one of the things that I probably wasn’t as aware of,” head coach James Franklin said. “He’s done a really good job of taking everything in and being very intentional about it. I take time to meet with the GA’s and analysts and give them my perspective on things that they should be doing. That’s going to be important for their development, it’s going to be important for the interview process. It’s interesting we kind of went back and talked about, I remember I used to have interviews I remember with Joe Brady, either coming in early or staying late and doing kind of interview process with those guys and giving them feedback. We had a ton of guys that we did that with.”

from 2012-2014, Deion Barnes compiled 99 tackles (48 solo), 26.5 tackles for loss, and 14.0 sacks. Additionally, Barnes recorded four pass deflections and forced five fumbles in the Blue and White. Barnes knows what it takes to be a great Penn State defensive lineman, and will be able to enforce “the standard” as the new D-Line coach in State College.

“Deion was actually doing a really good job of everything we talked about,” Franklin said. “Taking very serious notes and being intentional, and adding things to his game. I think also, his background, he’s played for really good D-line coaches, he’s coached for very good D-line coaches, his time with Brent Pry I think was valuable, his time with Manny Diaz was valuable. And then I think the other thing, that kind of goes into this as well, is his time of being a trainer. When Deion was coaching in high school, he was training a lot of the high-profile defensive linemen in that region, whether they were from Philadelphia or New Jersey — and I’m talking, when I’m talking about high profile, I’m talking about guys in the NFL, he was training all those guys.

“I think what I watched with him over the last couple years is he’s made the transition from being a trainer to being a coach. And there are aspects and similarities of those two jobs that are similar, but there’s a lot of other aspects that go into it as well.”

Penn State football has some massive expectations this year after finishing 11-2 overall with a Rose Bowl win a season ago. According to Franklin, having a PSU former player turned coach will help Penn State’s players relate to Barnes and improve their development.

“I also think his ability to relate to the players and recruits is going to be a strength of his,” Franklin said of Barnes. “He has the ability to be hard and demanding on them in a way that they respect and can relate to, which a lot of times younger coaches, they have a hard time with that. I think, obviously, his ability to relate to the coaches, his understanding and fundamentals and techniques of the position. Then one of the things I was impressed with during the interview process is his understanding of the big picture, not only defensively, schematically. But then also in terms of all the other things. In terms of managing the room, in terms of setting standards and expectations of the room, in terms of academics and his role on being the head coach at his position.

“I think the fact that he’s literally a paper away from finishing his Master’s Degree, I think that sends a message. I’m not saying a Master’s Degree in college coaching is a must, but I do think it sends the right message and it illustrates the right message. So there’s a lot of things that we feel really good about Deion.”

Head coach James Franklin has installed an elite football culture at Penn State — something the program needed after a rough patch from 2011-2013. Now, as the Nittany Lions head into the 10th season of the James Franklin era, Penn State’s culture will be a driving factor behind the team’s success.

“I think, you know, whenever you can promote from within, which is what I would typically prefer to do across the board, he understands our culture already, he understands the defensive scheme.,” Franklin said. “So when you go out and hire maybe a more experienced coach from the outside, you get that, but then that guy’s got to spend time learning the defense and understanding the culture. So you could make arguments both ways. But I was very impressed with Deion and how he interviewed.

“The last thing I’ll say, I know this is a long answer, but I think the other thing that really jumped out to me that I thought he did a good job in the interview process is you felt — not only did you hear it, but you felt his passion for coaching D-line, you felt his passion for Penn State, and you felt his passion for this specific group of defensive linemen that he has a relationship with. So it was kind of all of that. It was all of that.”



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Josh Pate: ‘No Surprise’ if James Franklin, Penn State Make 2023 CFP

According to one college football personality, Penn State football could have a historic run in 2023.

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Penn State Football, James Franklin, Josh Pate
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin celebrates with the trophy on the podium after the Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Utah Utes in the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville, TN — Does progress always need to occur in a straight line? For Penn State football, the answer is “no” for one of the most influential voices in college football media. It may be March, but 247 Sports’ Josh Pate doesn’t think James Franklin and the Nittany Lions should be sneaking up on anyone this year.

Josh Pate: Penn State Football is ‘a Wolf at the Playoff Door’ in 2023

On Tuesday night’s episode of his show, Late Kick, Josh Pate spent considerable time discussing the current state of the Penn State football program. Pate said that the Nittany Lions are “a team I think you need to have your eye on” and that they are “a wolf at the playoff door” in 2023.

In Pate’s opinion, Penn State is a real threat to win the Big Ten and make the playoff both this season and for a “sustained run” in the future. “No one should be surprised if this team pops this fall,” Pate said. “And no one should be surprised if Penn State goes on a multi-year run where they’re in the conversation every year.”

The recipe for Penn State’s potential success is simple for Josh Pate. He pointed to the likelihood of having Drew Allar, the highest-rated quarterback prospect in the program’s history, as Penn State’s starter. He went so far as to call Allar one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. However, according to Pate, Allar won’t need to carry the burden alone, as the Nittany Lions have one of the most productive running back duos in the country in Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. Pate also cited Penn State’s “proven production” on the offensive line.

On the defensive side of the football, Pate called James Franklin’s hiring of Manny Diaz “one of the sneakiest best pickups of last year.” He noted that the Nittany Lions return 75% of their defensive production. Pate also gave a shoutout to Abdul Carter and said the rest of the nation will know the sophomore linebacker’s name by season’s end.

Can James Franklin Get Over the Hump?

Josh Pate also spend considerable time in the segment challenging the naysayers of Penn State football’s potential. Pate acknowledged the high standard for success around the program but noted that Penn State isn’t far off from that goal.

“Degrees of difference [are needed],” Pate said. “They don’t need wholesale changes; they are right on the doorstep.”

Pate discussed how critics cite James Franklin’s lack of regular success against Ohio State and Michigan as evidence that the coach will never get over the hump. Pate claimed that the discussion is similar to critiques of Kirby Smart at Georgia before he won his first national championship. 

“Just because it has not been, doesn’t mean it cannot be,” Pate said.

To close the segment, Pate compared James Franklin and the development of his program to that of Dabo Swinney and Clemson. Unlike the rapid success of Nick Saban and Alabama, Pate argued that a program can still be doing things the right way if it doesn’t “mushroom cloud” right away. 

“Success is not always linear. Sometimes things don’t always take off right out of the gate. Sometimes there’s a slow build,” Pate said. 

But, Pate concluded by saying that, like at no other point in the James Franklin era at Penn State, things “may be at the point where everything finally starts to come together.” Will Josh Pate’s assessment of the Penn State football program be correct? We only have to wait 164 more days to find out. 



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Penn State opens the season at No. 5 in preseason poll

The Nittany Lions are ranked at No. 5 in a major preseason poll.

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Penn State football preseason poll
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Harrison Wallace III (6) makes a catch against Utah Utes safety R.J. Hubert (11) in the second half of the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — On Tuesday, 247 Sports released its 2023 college football preseason top 25 poll. 247 lists three Big Ten programs in the top-5 and four Big Ten programs in the top 25. Among the top teams in the nation is Penn State football, who checked in at No. 5 on 247’s preseason poll.

Penn State football ranked at No. 5 in major 2023 preseason poll

The Penn State football team had an incredible season in 2022, going 11-2 overall, finishing the year at No. 7, and winning the Rose Bowl game against No. 8 Utah. If that was not enough, the Nittany Lions return a ton of talent, including some old faces like Chop Robinson, Nick Singleton, Kaytron Allen, Abdul Carter, and more. On the other hand, Penn State will also have some new faces starting, such as rising sophomore Drew Allar, who will be taking over as Penn State’s starting quarterback for the first time this fall.

Heading into the new season, Penn State’s win total is set at 9.5 — the only two Big Ten teams listed above Penn State are the Michigan Wolverines (10.5) and Ohio State Buckeyes (10.5) — these two are both ranked ahead of Penn State football in the 247 preseason poll as well.

Here are the four Big Ten teams ranked in 247’s preseason poll and where they rank:

What does 247 say about the Nittany Lions in their preseason poll?

247’s ranking system is based off of cumulative points, of which Penn State football has 114. The team ahead of the Nittany Lions — the Alabama Crimson Tide — has 131. In comparison to Michigan (141) and Ohio State (137), there seems to be some work to be done in order to catch up. Here is what 247 had to say about Penn State ahead of the 2023 season:

“Ranked as high as No. 5 by 247 Sports and as low as No. 9 (The Sporting News), there’s a bit of a preseason variance associated with the Nittany Lions, who welcome back a pair of standout freshmen ballcarriers and former five-star quarterback Drew Allar, who assumes the starting title. Getting through Michigan and Ohio State is the primary task at hand for Penn State, who won 11 games last season but failed to conquer the Wolverines or the Buckeyes.”



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Penn State is dominating the 2022-23 athletic calendar

Few athletic departments, if any, are seeing levels of success like Penn State right now.

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Penn State football, Penn State wrestling
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) celebrates on the podium after defeating the Utah Utes in the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Since the start of the most recent school year, the Penn State Nittany Lions have been on quite the hot streak. To kick things off — from September through January — the Penn State football team made an impressive run. Since then, the Lions have seen a great deal of success across many other sports as well, including some men’s basketball, hockey, Penn State wrestling, and more.

Penn State football kicks off incredible run for PSU athletics

At the beginning of the 2022-23 calendar, the Penn State football team came into the season unranked for the first time since the Nittany Lions’ incredible Big Ten title run in 2016. In Week 1, Penn State took down the eventual Big Ten West Champs (Purdue) on the road before destroying the eventual MAC East champs (Ohio) in Week 2, and Auburn in Week 3.

The Nittany Lions’ season started hot, and despite some road bumps along the way (losses at Michigan and vs. Ohio State), Penn State came away with an incredible season to say the least. All said and done, James Franklin and his team finished 11-2, won the Rose Bowl, snapped Penn State’s top 10 losing streak, and finished ranked in the top 10 for the fourth time in the past six full seasons.

Penn State wrestling wins national title

On Saturday, the Penn State wrestling team — led by legendary head coach Cael Sanderson — won its 10th national title in the past 12 tournaments. Sanderson, who took over the program before the 2009-10 season, has turned the Nittany Lions into the greatest college sports dynast of our time, and doesn’t appear to be finished yet. Two weeks ago, Penn State claimed its 7th-ever Big Ten tournament title not long after bringing home the regular season title with a 16-0 overall record and an 8-0 Big Ten record.

During the NCAA tournament, Penn State wrestling tied the program record for All-Americans (8) before winning the 11th national championship in program history just minutes into the first session on Saturday. The Nittany Lions also claimed two individual national titles.

Men’s basketball makes impressive run

Heading into the 2022-23 season, the Penn State basketball program did not appear to be in very good shape. The Nittany Lions had not been to the NCAA tournament in over ten years (2011), and had not won a tournament game in over 20 years (2001). Under second-year head coach Micah Shrewsberry, the Nittany Lions defied all odds and performed well above expectations. Additionally, Penn State basketball broke a few records (such as the Penn State and Big Ten record for most 3-pointers made in a single season), and even appeared in the conference title game against Purdue.

On Saturday night, Penn State basketball was narrowly eliminated from the NCAA tournament by the 2-seed Texas Longhorns; however, this is only the beginning for Nittany Lion hoops. Now, it’s time for AD Pat Kraft and the administration to give Micah Shrewsberry whatever he wants to keep him in State College for the long haul.

Hockey (M) will have a shot at the national title

On Sunday night, the Nittany Lions earned the elusive bid to the NCAA tournament and will compete for the national championship. Seeing as the Penn State hockey team (men’s) is currently ranked No. 10 in the coaches poll and No. 8 in the pairwise, the Nittany Lions will undoubtedly get their bid to the 16-team NCAA tournament. It has been a historic season in Hockey Valley — the Lions have pulled off numerous massive upsets over multiple No. 1 teams and more — though as of late, Penn State has slowly declined a bit.

After dropping in round one of the Big Ten tournament to the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions will look to bounce-back and make a run at the national championship this spring.

Hockey (W) wins first-ever conference title

For the first time in program history, the Penn State hockey team (women’s) won a conference title last month. Goalie Josie Bothun was named CHA Tournament MVP en route to a 2-1 win over Mercyhurst in the CHA tournament championship game — the Lions made the NCAA tournament as well, though fell short to Quinnipiac in round one.

Many spring sports off to a hot start

Thus far, during the 2023 spring/summer athletic schedule, the Penn State Nittany Lions are doing quite well. The Penn State men’s lacrosse team is currently ranked in the top-5 with a 5-2 record, and are heading into a massive game against Maryland next weekend.

The Penn State men’s volleyball team is currently ranked No. 2 in the land with an 18-2 record — the men’s team just upset No. 1 Hawaii in a massive road showdown and will host Ohio State at Rec Hall on Tuesday.

The Penn State baseball team is not ranked, though does boast an impressive 11-5 record on the season. The Nittany Lions opened their home schedule with a 6-1 win over Georgetown on Saturday and followed it up with a 7-2 win on Sunday.

The Penn State softball team is also off to a great start, boasting an outstanding 17-4 record to star the year. The ladies will host Pitt in State College on Tuesday.



Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics.

For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at basicbluesnation@gmail.com or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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