Although conventional wisdom suggests it might be difficult for Georgia to convince Northeast (Pa.) High standout Deion Barnes to head south instead of choosing Penn State, his high school coach Scott Riley said Wednesday that might not be the correct assumption.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Barnes took his official visit to Georgia last weekend, and according to Riley came away quite pleased.
"He loved it," Riley said. "He thought everything was beautiful and really nice."
Coaches at Georgia and Penn State don't have to wait long for his decision.
According to Riley, Barnes will choose between the Bulldogs and Nittany Lions during a school assembly that's set to begin at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Riley said Barnes holds both schools in very high esteem.
"He was very impressed with both programs because they are rich in tradition," Riley said. "He's a very loyal guy and he understands that both programs treat their players very well and are very loyal. Those are the main things that he's looking at."
Riley added that academics will play a huge role in whichever school Barnes decides to attend.
According to the coach, his star pupil has talked about becoming a teacher, but is now leaning towards majoring in sports management.
"He's academics first so he wanted to see what their academic programs were like," Riley said. "I was with him at Penn State. I wasn't with him at Georgia, although I would have loved to, but with Deion it's always academics first."
A 22-year coaching veteran, Riley said that Barnes is probably the smartest player he's ever coached.
"He's very analytical," Riley said. "I had him as a JVer when he was just moving up to the varsity and just trying to talk to him he was always inquisitive, always asking questions like 'why am I doing this?' He was always thinking about things, he wasn't just a robot. He always worried about - which was very rare - his area, his position because he didn't ever want to get burned. Even when we were blitzing, his focus was he didn't want to let his area down."
Riley said Barnes believes he could adapt very well to being an outside linebacker in Georgia's 3-4 scheme.
"He's a hard worker, a focused player. I was just talking with him two minutes ago. I'm only in my second year as the head coach at Northeast and he only missed one game during his JV year in ninth grade," Riley said. "He's very durable, very focused, has unbelievable drive and was one of our captains. It's not just because of his athleticism that makes him stand out, but it's his dedication and blind focus on the task at hand."
On the field, Barnes dominated for Riley's Northeast squad.
Although he didn't have his final statistics handy, Riley said Barnes averaged over a sack per game and blocked three punts, including one which he returned for a touchdowns.
"Things really picked up for Deion last December once his name got out there and we've been having schools in here non-stop every day since then," Riley said. "It's been stressful on him, but he's done a good job of whittling it down to five programs he was really interested in, and finally to three. (Thursday), we'll find out what his decision will be."
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