Barnes anxiously awaits chance to show off skills at linebacker
COLUMBIA -- Slowly getting to his feet after taking a brief nap between first day meetings and lunch, linebacker Brandon Barnes stepped into the hallway of the Tom Taylor football complex at the University of Missouri to answer a few questions from the media.
Eyes widening with each question, it's obvious that the senior from Sikeston was excited at the prospect of starting football practice and getting the season underway.
Barnes will begin his final season as a Tiger in the Edward Jones Dome against Illinois. Competing for "bragging rights," he is anxiously awaiting his chance to show off his skills as a linebacker.
Over the course of four seasons, Barnes has seen both sides of the football at a variety of different positions. Moving from wide receiver to safety after the 2001 season and now dressing out as a linebacker for the start of 2003, Barnes has been comfortable with all of the moves.
"The coaches approached me about making changes in my positions," Barnes said. "I was happy to make the moves. I think this is probably my strongest position yet."
When asked which position he's enjoyed working at the most, he seems reluctant to admit that his first love is defense.
"To be honest, I've had fun at all positions I've played in," Barnes said. "But, I do like a lot of hitting, and I can get more of that done in my position as linebacker," he admitted with a shy grin.
Playing both sides of the football at Sikeston High School, Barnes never really considered continuing the game into college
"I didn't ever see myself playing college football," Barnes said. "I grew up wanting to go to Memphis, but I started noticing how Missouri was making improvements in their football program and I knew that after a few years the team was really going to be strong. I was very fortunate that the Missouri coaches came along when I had a pretty good senior season. When Mizzou started sending letters, I was ready to sign on."
Taking a redshirt in 1999, Barnes was twice named "Player of the Week" for the offensive scout team.
Barnes began his career in 2000 as member of special teams and also at wide receiver and made his first collegiate appearance against Western Illinois at home on Sept. 2.
Sadly, after making a catch for 16-yards, the redshirt freshman broke his ankle in game two at Clemson, suffering an injury on special teams.
Making his return to the game in the fall of 2001, Barnes played in all 11 games that season as a wide receiver and on special teams.
In the spring of 2002, Barnes made the switch from offense to defense and was voted the "Most Improved" defensive back.
Playing defense for the first time as a Tiger in 2002, Barnes played in 12 games and started in five. The 6-3 letterman ended the year eighth on the team with 54 tackles and 47 unassisted stops, including one for a loss.
Throughout the season, Barnes recovered two fumbles, forced one and broke up a pass, grabbing his first career interception against Ball State for a return of 25 yards.
Landing 10 tackles in the home opener against Ball State, he was named the team defensive "Most Valuable Player" for his efforts, and earned the honor again after his first career start against Nebraska (Oct. 12).
He registered a career-high 14 tackles (12 solo), one fumble recovery and one pass broken up against the Huskers, it was an outstanding game for the junior. Still, the game Barnes recalls as the most memorable was at Texas A&M on Nov. 16.
"I hardly played in the game," Barnes said, "but it was a great day for the team. We entered underrated and all of the guys got out there and played at Kyle Field making a come back in two overtimes and winning the game, the big game."
Entering 2003, Barnes is looking forward to an exciting season with the Tigers.
"My expectations are high for this team," Barnes said. "It's my last year and I want to leave the younger guys with respect from around the nation."
"Every day we need to play like we're a top-ranked team and heading into a bowl game. We need to put our potential to work."
Barnes may want a lot for the team, but what does he want for himself?
"I'd like to get up there and challenge some of the leading tacklers...like James Kinney!! That's my personal goal. I want to challenge James Kinney," Barnes said only half jokingly.
Whatever his goals, whether personal or for the team, Barnes is determined he can achieve them.
"I've worked out all summer and I'm ready for the whole season. Every game is something to look forward to."
Story by Emily Gatewood, Mizzou Athletic Media Relations.