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December 19, 2013

Take Three: Tarow Barney and ...Steven Bench?

Continuing the "Take Three" weekly series with a look at Penn State's newest four-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley, the attendance battle between Penn State wrestling and Iowa, and a connection between future Nittany Lion Tarow Barney and former PSU quarterback Steven Bench.


Recent PSU juco signee Tarow Barney has a high school connection with Steven Bench. Yeah, that Steven Bench.

Barney, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive tackle from Northwest Mississippi Community College, only played one season of high school football. But when he first went out for spring practice in 2011 at Bainbridge (Ga.) High, the quarterback of the team was -- you guessed it -- Bench.

"Then he left before my senior year," Barney said, "and went down the street to my rival school."

As the story goes, Bench transferred that summer to nearby Cairo where he went on to throw for 20 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 yards. It's also where he earned the attention of Bill O'Brien, which lead to a scholarship to Penn State, at which he stayed for one season.

His transfer in high school worked out well. Has Bench's latest transfer to South Florida been as rewarding?

Well, he's been playing. The former Nittany Lion saw action in seven of 12 games, while battling a knee injury. He finished the year with a 40.6 completion percentage, 392 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. And at one point head coach Willie Taggart offered this evaluation of the Georgia native, "He's still not where he knows our offense completely, so we've got to be smart with what we ask him to do. We don't need him to be Tom Brady. We want him to be Steven Bench."



Watch this video about recent PSU commit Thomas Holley.

As you might have seen from BWI's outpouring of headlines since Tuesday night, Holley, PSU's top remaining recruit in the Class of 2014, committed to Penn State.

The coverage has been blown out, but in case you haven't gotten enough of the four-star defensive tackle yet, here's a seven-minute video I found that you might like. It goes behind the scenes of Holley's recruitment and offers a perspective of Holley that I had yet to see.

It's a bit of a production, as you'll see. (It's a show called City Gridiron that airs regularly in the greater New York City area.) But it has some great input from Holley's head coach Shawn O'Connor. For example, on Holley's first play of organized football his junior year he scored a touchdown by falling on a loose ball in the end zone. Afterward, he and his mom had no idea what had happened or how he scored. They've come a long way.



There are a few other City Gridiron videos on YouTube which show clips of Holley's games. Some even show Holley's pregame locker room speech. Definitely recommended, too.



There's something extra on the line Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Since Penn State broke the college wrestling attendance record with its dual meet in the Bryce Jordan Center Dec. 8, bypassing a mark previously set by Iowa in 2008, Cael Sanderson has been anticipating the Hawkeyes to surpass the Nittany Lions' recent mark of 15,996.

"I think that's fun," Sanderson grinned. "At this point when you have sellouts all the time, its just (finding) a better way of getting more people in the building, legally."

As I mentioned last week, I thought Penn State's announced attendance number for the BJC dual was a little inflated. I picked on it on Twitter, and then had some people question why I even cared.

Well, I don't really. But I do believe little sidebar conflicts, like an all-time attendance record, only add to the complexion of a rivalry. And a complex rivalry only adds to the sport. So I asked Iowa head coach Tom Brands on a teleconference Wednesday about the significance of re-breaking the attendance record when he hosts Penn State Saturday (Big Ten Network - 9:00 p.m.)

Brands said breaking the record wouldn't be his No. 1 focus, obviously, but he replied, "I think its good, significant and interesting to a lot of people -- not just local fans here (in Iowa), but obviously Penn State fans that don't come out to watch. They will be watching (the attendance record) with a keen eye."


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