Barnes making switch to LB this year at MU
COLUMBIA -- Sikeston's Brandon Barnes is making a name for himself at the University of Missouri. As a member of the Mizzou football squad, Barnes has been the focus of many talks regarding "breakthrough years" and showing lots of potential.
He has been noted as being one of the hardest hitters on the squad, as well as one of the hardest workers. As spring practice begins, a new beginning is occurring for Barnes.
In this, his final year, Barnes is looking to make a breakout statement with a newly optimistic team (thanks to quarterback Brad Smith), a new position, and new physique.
As a football and basketball standout at Sikeston from 1996-1999, Barnes exhibited the skill and physical attributes that attracted the attention of many football programs in the region.
From Southern Illinois University to Arkansas State University, as a senior Barnes was recruited heavily, and the decision he ultimately made was one that fulfilled a life long dream.
"I have always wanted to go to Mizzou. I've wanted to go there since I was a little kid" said Barnes in a 1998 interview.
At that time Barnes had a desire to make an immediate impact with the Mizzou football squad. Position shifts (from wide receiver to free safety and now linebacker) and injuries throughout the years (a broken ankle sidelined him for a majority of the 2001 season) have hampered Barnes' ability to make such an impact at Mizzou.
As a wide receiver in his first three years, Barnes was overshadowed by the talents of all-Big 12 wide receiver Justin Gage (a fellow 1999 recruit).
With the departure of coach Larry Smith and the arrival of coach Gary Pinkel, Barnes' focus was changed from offense to defense, when he moved from wide receiver to free safety in Coach Pinkel's second year with Mizzou.
Not only was there a position change in store for Barnes, but a new fire was lit under the tired looking Mizzou football team. Everything for the team changed once Pinkel was at the helm.
Practices became more intense, and the hard hitting Barnes made good use of his old defensive attributes.
At free safety last year Barnes split time on the field with junior Marcus King. Despite splitting time, Barnes was still eighth on the team in tackles with 54, almost 10 more than his counterpart.
This opened up the eyes of the linebacker coaches for Mizzou, and with the Tigers' second leading tackler gone in Sean Doyle, many in the camp thought it would be a good idea to move Barnes one more time to linebacker.
Now in his final year of eligibility, Barnes is set to make a name for himself among the Mizzou faithful. Accomplishing this feat will be a huge test for Barnes.
Regarding the starting linebacker position he is fighting for this year, Barnes said that it is "extremely competitive" so far in spring practice.
Although he has been practicing with the first string defense, he has not solidified the starting role as of yet, stating that "…it is only spring, and there are a lot of other talented individuals going out for this position."
The Tigers were remarkably improved this past season, behind the remarkable play of red-shirt freshman Brad Smith. Under the helm of Smith the Tigers are, as stated by Barnes, "starving" for something more than mediocrity.
The hopes for a Big 12 championship or even are bowl bid are high among those on the staff and on the field. Barnes said he will be putting some extra time in at the gym this summer in preparation for next season. He is currently sitting at approximately 225 and wants to put on nearly 10 more pounds of muscle before the beginning of next season.
Not only has he changed physically since leaving SHS, but academically as well. Barnes stated that his time at SHS benefited him well when it came to academic side of college.
When asked about his on-field preparation for Division-I football, Barnes said, "Coach (Charlie) Vickery's conditioning program helped, but it was no match for what I was about to go through up here."
As far as balancing the two, academics and athletics, at Mizzou, Barnes simply states, "If you can't make the grades, you don't play. My education is the most important thing to me anyway."
Academically, Barnes is an interdisciplinary studies major. When asked about his future plans after his final year at Mizzou, Barnes stated, "I will probably go back to school and get my masters"
Football has allowed Barnes to make a vital investment in his future by providing him with an education, opportunity, and a chance to say he fulfilled a childhood dream.
To all of the other athletic standouts who come out of Southeast Missouri, Barnes offers up this tidbit of advice.
"Stay grounded, stay humble, and keep working hard," he said. "Keep pushing until you are on top."
Southeast Missouri can look for some exciting play, a possible bowl bid, or more from Barnes and the Tigers this year. With the annual Black & Gold Scrimmage game coming up on April 12 at 2 p.m. in Columbia, Barnes is excited about playing in front of a crowd again.
After a summer of hard training he hopes to kick his play into high gear once the Tigers get rolling on the season, which starts August 30 in St. Louis in the annual border war against Illinois.
With his determination and a new beginning for Barnes and the Tigers, this season looks to be one for the record books, and one of a new tradition of winning for Mizzou.