UNIVERSITY PARK — Deion Barnes’ career at Penn State is over.
The junior defensive end has informed his coaches and teammates he plans to enter the NFL Draft the university announced Tuesday.
“Can’t believe I’ve walked my last time out of the tunnel,” Barnes said in an athletic department release. “I want to thank the Penn State family for being with me through the rough times. They’re the best fans in the nation. I’m going to miss playing in front of 107,000.”
Barnes burst on the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2012 where he racked up a team-best six sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He also chipped in three forced fumbles and earned the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year Award. His sophomore year wasn’t nearly as productive as opposing offensive coordinators were wise to his speed rush from the outside. Barnes finished last season with just four tackles for loss and two sacks in addition to a forced fumble.
Barnes maintained his true abilities weren’t reflected by his play in 2013. He bounced back with a strong junior season in Bob Shoop’s defense. Barnes finished second on the team with 12 1/2 tackles for loss and six sacks. He also forced a fumble.
“Our staff wants thank Deion for all he’s done here at Penn State and we wish him all the best in the NFL,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “Deion has been great contributor for us on the field and earned his degree earlier this month. We’re excited to watch him take the next step.”
The Philadelphia native, listed at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, graduated in December with a degree in recreation, parks and tourism management. Barnes was named an All-Big Ten honorable mention by the conference coaches and media. He finished his career with 98 tackles, 26 1/2 for losses and 14 sacks.
His departure coupled with that of fellow defensive ends C.J. Olaniyan and Brad Bars suddenly leaves Penn State thin at the position. Rising senior Carl Nassib is the lone remaining defensive end among the team’s two-deep groupings.
“I talked with my family and we believe it’s best for me to move forward and forgo my fifth year,” Barnes said in the release. “I want to thank the fans one more time and I want to thank Penn State for the opportunity you’ve given me. This has been the best four years of my life. I love y’all so much.”