Barnett Gets Caught In Jones' Rule

LITTLE ROCK — Just because a Mississippi State forward was an overachiever in summer school, defensive tackle Freddie Barnett cannot play football at Arkansas.

Waylaid by the Dontae Jones rule, Barnett has enrolled at Memphis.

During the summer of 1995, Jones passed 36 credit hours — three times the number of hours that would be an accomplishment for an honor roll student.

And, he spread himself around — racking up 23 hours at Northeast Mississippi Community College and 13 more through correspondence courses from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Jones led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four appearance in the school's history in 1996, just about the time the NCAA enforcement staff met with Northeast officials to discuss Jones' grades.

Eventually, the Southeastern Conference put in a rule that an athlete's final three semesters had to be at the same school, and that's where Barnett was pinched.

Signed by Arkansas in February 2004, Barnett spent two years at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas.

A year ago, he signed again with Arkansas. But the SEC requires junior college athletes to pass a specific math course — remember Sonny Weems had to take an algebra course from UA-Fort Smith during the summer — and a particular English course.

Barnett lacked both.

Barnett had used up his scholarship at Trinity so he stayed home in Texarkana and took the courses at the local community college, violating the Dontae Jones rule.

Arkansas got nowhere with an appeal and the Razorback coaches pitched Barnett to Oklahoma State, Missouri and Memphis. OSU had its quota of defensive linemen, but Memphis had room.

The plight of Barnett is another example of the vagaries of recruiting.

The first time Barnett signed, it was no surprise that he failed to qualify academically. That same year, Waco offensive lineman Ryan Young, Fayetteville athlete Woody Wilson, and Hargrave Military Academy offensive lineman Jeremy Palmoore were in a similar situation when they committed to Arkansas.

Young was never heard from again. Wilson attended junior college in Kansas and matriculated to North Texas where he was one of three quarterbacks in a rotation last year.

Needing to make some cuts, Arkansas re-evaluated Palmoore and he ended up at Oklahoma State.

A week from Wednesday, Arkansas could sign as many as 31, although there is almost as much talk about the five leaving the state as the ones who are going to be Razorbacks. Only 25 will get into school. Other schools also overextend, knowing some are bound to fail.

If eligible, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Barnett would have played behind Keith Jackson Jr. and Ernest Mitchell last fall. It was Mitchell who took Marcus Harrison's job away from him and it will be up to Harrison or Cord Gray or maybe a newcomer to step in for Jackson in the fall.

A weight-room resident, Patrick Jones of Lovejoy, Ga., is a possibility. Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker has known about Jones since the young man was beginning the ninth grade and those who keep up say Jones could be another gem unearthed by Rocker. Jones did not participate in the various combines and camps last summer and that's where reputations are sometimes inflated. If Rocker says he can play, that's good enough.

Besides, Jones' quotes are more than the routine compliments for the facilities and the coaching staff.

" ... regardless of how many stars someone puts on me, I have a five-star heart and a five-star will ...," he told Dudley Dawson of Hawgs Illustrated.

In the weeks prior to national signing day 2006, there were equal parts anxiety and fervor because of the up-in-the-air situation with the Springdale athletes.

This year, there is no in-state prize still to be wooed by Arkansas and the skill players committed to the Razorbacks are from out of state where exposure is a brief highlight clip at best.

Seeing Mitch Mustain, Damian Williams, Ben Cleveland, and Andrew Norman every week only enhanced their reputations and whetted appetites.

----

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media's Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.


Hawgs Daily Top Stories