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James Franklin Promotes Former Lion to Assistant Coach

Deion Barnes was promoted to defensive line coach on Monday.



James Franklin
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin calls a timeout in the second half against the Utah Utes of the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

James Franklin has promoted Deion Barnes to be Penn State football’s new defensive line coach, the program announced Monday. Barnes had previously served as a graduate assistant and analyst with the program.

The decision comes two weeks after John Scott Jr. announced his departure to the Detroit Lions and mere hours before the start of spring football.

James Franklin Chooses a Familiar Face

Deion Barnes is the most obvious choice to replace John Scott Jr., but the move also comes with considerable risk.

Of course, many fans remember Barnes from his days donning the Blue and White. Part of Joe Paterno’s last recruiting class, Barnes recorded 99 tackles, including 26.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks, between 2012 and 2014.

After a short-lived NFL career, Barnes returned to his native Philadelphia as a coach at Northeast High School. In 2020, he rejoined the Nittany Lions’ staff as a graduate assistant. He was quickly recognized as an emerging talent in the coaching ranks. It was touted as a massive success when James Franklin kept Barnes on staff as an analyst after his three years as a graduate assistant ended following the 2022 season.

Barnes had vocal support from several former Nittany Lions leading up to the hire. At the NFL Combine, defensive tackle PJ Mustipher went on record with his thoughts about Barnes.

“I want Coach Franklin to hire him,” he stated. “I think he should because he’s put in a lot of work with our defensive line.”

As Mustipher’s comments made their way around Penn State circles, this sentiment was reiterated by former Nittany Lion Aeneas Hawkins and current Atlanta Falcon Arnold Ebiketie.

Deion Barnes: The Right Hire at the Right Time?

The promotion of Deion Barnes was made public in a statement from the football program Monday night, less than 24 hours before Penn State begins spring football practice. 

“I am thrilled and honored to be the defensive line coach for my alma mater,” Barnes said in the statement. “I am extremely grateful to Coach Franklin for giving me this opportunity to lead a room of tremendous young men who have worked so hard each and every day. I have a lot of pride and passion for Penn State University, and I am excited to go to work with this coaching staff, this team, my letterman brothers and the best fans in college football.”

Barnes is a beloved former player who has become one of Lasch’s shining stars. He has significantly impacted the players he’s interacted with. Barnes also plays a critical role in recruiting Philadelphia. There is little doubt in my mind that he will be a successful coach one day.

But this is also a significant step up for a young coach. It’s one thing to believe in a largely unproven talent. It’s quite another to take a leap of faith in a year when the expectations for Penn State football are already sky-high.

At any rate, James Franklin has his guy. We’ll see soon enough how it works out.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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