Barnes planning improvement after great freshman year

Defensive end Deion Barnes committed to Penn State in 2011. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff Photographer)

Deion Barnes showed considerable talent last season as a first-year defensive end at Penn State, finishing in the top five of the Big Ten with six sacks and being named the conference’s freshman of the year.

Now the North Philadelphia native thinks he can be a better football player in 2013 because he’s more aware of what his colleagues on the defensive line are doing, and getting better at reading opposing offenses.

“I’m doing better recognizing offenses and playing together as a unit on the defensive line because you need your inside guys, you need your other guys to be successful,” the 6-foot-4, 244-pound Barnes, a former Northeast High star, said Saturday after the Blue-White Game at Beaver Stadium. “So I think I’m learning how to become a better teammate.”

Barnes said that as a freshman, he was “just walking out there, not knowing what’s going to happen.” He said that gaining game experience helped him improve, as did talking with tackles Jordan Hill and DaQuan Jones.

“As a young guy, you’re just going out there doing whatever you can because you’re not seeing everything,” he said. “Jordan and DaQuan helped me out a lot but I didn’t notice how much. You see how valuable the inside guys are.”

Barnes said he barely played two series in the Blue-White Game, but coach Bill O’Brien has noticed what he called Barnes’ “productive spring.”

“Barnes loves football,” O’Brien said. “He works extremely hard in the weight room and on the football field. I think that he’s a really, really good football player and he’s going to be a valuable member of this team just as he was last year. I think he has improved in certain areas in his game.”

Barnes said he hopes to improve as a pass rusher in the upcoming season but will handle the run “way better than I did last year.

“I’ve gotten bigger and stronger,” he said. “I’ve gotten better with my technique but I still have more work to do. But I’m starting to recognize the offensive lineman better so I can see if it’s a run or a pass.”

--Joe Juliano