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IMG Academy DL Justin Benton looks back on PSU visit

Penn State hosted a few up-and-coming prospects from IMG Academy this summer, one of whom is Class of 2023 defensive tackle Justin Benton.

A native of Covington, Ga., Benton earned an offer from the Nittany Lions way back in June 2020, and over that time he said he’s grown close with graduate assistant Deion Barnes. In fact, that relationship, as well the one he’s formed with John Scott Jr., are a major reason why he decided to visit.

“Definitely Coach Deion Barnes and the effort he makes with me. That’s a big reason why I came up there,” Benton said. “He’s shown a lot of love and has really invested in me. But also, their D-line coach, Coach Scott. He’s a really great guy and I know he’s a great coach, too. Those guys have built one of my best relationships with me, so I was happy to get up to Penn State. I really wanted to check them out.”

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Penn State football is recruiting Class of 2023 prospect Justin Benton.
Penn State hosted Justin Benton for a visit in June. Benton previously played for Newton High School in Georgia before switching to IMG Academy this past winter. (

Growing up in a small town about 40 minutes outside Atlanta, Benton said that he liked State College and the surrounding area. He’s also high on Penn State’s success of producing players.

“What really grabbed my eyes was their scheme and how they play up there at Penn State," Benton said. "They have a four-man front that really attacks and gets after it. Obviously, a lot of great players have come through Penn State, too, especially D-linemen. Also, the environment up there at Penn State is just different. From the mountains to the stadium, it’s such a cool place. There wasn’t anything about Penn State that’s not to like.”

Benton and his family were also able to spend time with head coach James Franklin. In particular, he liked the presentation Franklin gave.

“Coach Franklin is a great coach. He actually did a presentation with myself and some other recruits that were up there that day," Benton said. "I really like that. He took his time to go through things with us and show why they’re such a great program. He really put his touch on the trip. It was great.”

Already up to two dozen scholarship offers, Benton has no shortage of opportunities. In addition to Penn State, he visited Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State and South Carolina. He said it was his trip up north that may have stood out the most.

“Honestly, the two visits were probably Penn State and Ohio State,” Benton said, when asked if any visit exceeded his expectations. “Both of those trips were really new for me. I thought they were great experiences for me. Both Penn State and Ohio State are up north, obviously, but that’s fine. With Ohio State, they put a ton of guys in the league. They also have a great D-line culture. With Penn State, it was really the tradition, the coaches and the culture. Both of those trips were a great time.”

Benton decided at the end of January to transfer from Newtown High School to IMG Academy. In 10 games last season, he totaled 85 tackles, including an eye-catching 25.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception. He was a sophomore All-American according to MaxPreps.


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