Deion Barnes has been Penn State's most productive defensive end this season.
"He knew exactly what he wanted to do, what he wanted to accomplish," Johnson said. "Not a lot of young guys can say that so early."
More than a year later, Barnes has an even clearer picture of exactly what he wants to accomplish at Penn State.
"I want to be unstoppable," he said Tuesday. "I'm not being here just to be good. I'm here to be great. I want to be where I can't be blocked. I've got to get to that point."
Barnes isn't exactly being blocked all the time these days. With two games to play, he leads the Nittany Lions with five sacks and nine tackles for loss.
Thought of as a pass-rushing specialist (and used primarily on passing downs) earlier in the season, he's become an every-down player and one of Penn State's best weapons against the run. Barnes had one sack and stuffed Nebraska running back Ameer Abduallah twice for losses in the first quarter alone in last week's loss to the Cornhuskers.
"I feel l'm doing better with my technique," he said. "I'm starting to use my hands more, just engaging the tackles and the tight ends."
Barnes said Tuesday that he hasn't been contacted by other programs about transferring, but he's likely to be a highly sought-after target, both because of the skills he's displayed this season and the potential he has to get even better.
"Deion Barnes is a very uniquely talented guy," Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's a tall guy, got really good athleticism. He's tough, a good team player, a good teammate. His future is limitless. He just needs to continue to work."
The 6-foot-4 Barnes currently is at his listed playing weight of 246 pounds, he said. He hopes to get up to 255 or 260 by this time next year but wants to make sure that it is all muscle.
And he wants to continue the plan he came to Penn State with.
"I was very aggressive," he said. "I wanted to play last year. I wanted to be able to get in the game and make a significant impact. It's not to the level I wanted to yet, but I think I did that OK this season."