STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A promising 2017 Penn State freshman class is now complete. Defensive end Damion Barber, who spent much of the summer working to fulfill academic requirements, cleared his hurdle Wednesday and arrived in Happy Valley.
Initially reported by Greg Pickel of PennLive, Barber’s enrollment delay ended midway through the third week of preseason camp. Considered a 4-star prospect by the 247Sports composite ratings, this 6-foot-3, 244-pound Harrisburg (Pa.) High School product has plenty of catching up to do on and off the field. But this development represents the realization of a lifelong goal.
“I’m really going to the college that I always dreamed of, and it’s not even about the football; it’s about the academics and knowing you can get a degree there,” Barber told Pickel. “It’s going to be fun having a family up there.”
— XXI (@DamionOTOD) August 16, 2017
His new family features 20 fellow freshmen, some of whom have been at Penn State since January. However, it’s the Nittany Lions veterans who will ultimately be called upon to provide guidance.
Senior linebacker Koa Farmer met with media Wednesday and reiterated the strength of relationships within Barber’s new locker room.
“I think all of us, we’re a big family. We expected him to come in,” Farmer said. “It’s not a problem showing him the ropes — what we do as a team and how we function. That’s not a problem at all.”
Barber, who watched from afar as other 2017 signees grew acclimated with new surroundings, previously told Audrey Snyder of K Pittsburgh Sports he intended to arrive on campus July 30. Yet when Penn State opened preseason camp July 31, he wasn’t yet in the mix. That absence sustained through the first two weeks of camp, though Nittany Lions coach James Franklin expressed optimism during media day on Aug. 5.
“We’re confident that Damion is going to be here,” Franklin said. “We’ve got some great feedback this week. So we’re really confident that Damion will be here.”
Barber provided a dominant force in 2016 during Harrisburg’s first journey to a state championship game. He tallied 27 tackles for loss and 13 sacks as a senior, according to John McGonigal of the Centre Daily Times. He finished his prep career with 38 sacks.
“He was just an animal,” Pottsville High coach Tom McGeoy told McGonigal while discussing a September 2016 matchup against Harrisburg. “My guys still talk about him. His size, speed, the way he plays the game. He was the best defender we played all year.”
While his physicality and defensive production commanded a large spotlight, it was Barber’s academics that gained attention in recent months.
“My whole mindset was school, school, school. I’ve been working my butt off,” he told Pickel.
Now that Barber is enrolled, many will wonder whether his friend and former Harrisburg teammate Micah Parsons will ultimately join him on the team. Parsons, a 5-star 2018 defensive end prospect, previously spent 14 months committed to Penn State before reopening his recruitment April 23. Fellow Harrisburg senior Shaquon Anderson-Butts, a 2018 receiver, pledged to Penn State on July 15.
Big bro on campus @DamionOTOD 🔵⚪️🔵⚪️
— quon (@anderson_quon) August 16, 2017
Barber will be hard-pressed to make an impact during the 2017 season, though the fall semester presents an opportunity for him to gain familiarity with the lifestyle and demands of a collegiate student-athlete. A realistic goal is to get him up to speed by next spring, when he’ll have a full camp to impress staff members.
“It’s not a rush for him. I’m not going to say it’s slow for him, too,” Farmer said. “He’ll catch up to it. Penn State guys are smart.”