Georgia defensive end visiting BYU

The Cougars of BYU are in search of a standout defensive end, and have found one in the Deep South. Visiting BYU this weekend will be a Georgia defensive end prospect that at one time was committed to the University of Tennessee.

Coming in at 6 feet 3 inches and 230 pounds is Grayson High School defensive end prospect Zach Barnes. Barnes is currently being coached by former BYU defensive lineman Lenny Gregory (formerly knows at Lenny Gomes), who is famous in BYU lore for his "flowery" statements involving BYU rival Utah.

"He's the defensive line coach out here and he's crazy out there on the field, man," said Barnes about Gomes. "He's always trying to pump us up out there as much as he can, and he's not going to take any slack out there. He teaches us technique really well and goes through all those things with us as players. We can't have any excuses come Friday night, you know."

This weekend BYU will be hosting a big recruiting extravaganza, where many high school football players will come on campus for an official visit. Barnes will be among them and will be taking his first visit out to Provo.

"I want to go see what it's like up there, you know?" said Barnes. "Go see what BYU is all about, and I'm really excited."

Barnes joins Arizona lineman Josh Carter, California linebacker Auston Johnson and Hawaii running back Aofaga Wily as one who could potentially be offered a full-ride scholarship while visiting BYU this weekend.

"No, they haven't offered me a scholarship yet, but I was told there was a very, very good chance they could do that once I get on campus," said Barnes.

Gregory has filled Barnes in on what to expect when he finally steps foot on BYU's campus.

"BYU I hear is a great place to go and play football, and I've also heard it's a great place to go to school from my position coach," Barnes said. "I've heard some good things about BYU and so I'm excited to check it out."

Barnes is attracted to the big-time games that BYU will be playing in future years.

"BYU plays a national schedule, and when you do that on national TV, it only makes it all the better," Barnes said. "You know, everyone wants to play on TV, and to play against these top-notch teams that BYU is going to play, I will be able to prove myself to be that much better."

Meanwhile, if he were to commit to BYU, Barnes would play for defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi, whom he has a lot of respect for.

"Coach Kaufusi is the one that's recruiting me and he's a real honest person," said Barnes. "He really informative and emails me things about the school. He lets you know that he wants you really bad. He's a straightforward coach and I like that."

Coach Kaufusi helped a very inexperienced and raw player in Ezekiel Ansah – who really only had two solid years of playing experience at the Division I level – learn and grow quickly as a defensive lineman. Now Ansah is a projected first-round NFL draft pick. Similarly, Barnes has only played two years of high school football, despite his father being an NFL player.

"Yes, I have heard of Ziggy Ansah and think it plays into the big factor of the overall picture," said Barnes. "Good coaching and even the players around them I think is a big deal. The way that BYU recruits people and the type of people they recruit is very important just as well as the kind of coaches that coach them."

So what is it about Barnes that caught the attention of Coach Kaufusi all the way out in Provo, Utah?

"Well, they told me that I was a really hard worker and they liked that I'm after the Lord," said Barnes. "I just try and do my thing on the field and just try and do my best all the time. I think the reason why BYU has shown a lot of interest in me is because I just want to be and do the best every day. I want to live my life in a way where I know my Heavenly Father would just be proud of me."

Barnes' religious convictions came at an early age. Ever since then he's tried to live his life in accordance to a higher code of conduct.

"I had a really early-age experience that helped me to see another side of God," Barnes said. "It just drew me in more and more, and kind of hard to explain because it just becomes more and more a part of your life. My relationship with God plays a big role in my life."

In addition to looking at a prospect's athletic ability and academics, BYU also looks at his spirituality.

"You have to have all three just to be considered to play there," said Barnes. "It seems like a good place for me to just learn about the Lord and be around like-minded people."

So when Barnes boards a plane from Loganville, Georgia and flies out to Provo on Friday, he'll be looking for one thing in particular.

"It's going to be a lot about the players," said Barnes. "It's going to be about the players and me feeling them out. So it's going to be about the quality of the players, those on campus and the type of people that are going to be over me. That's going to tell me a lot about the school, if they'll act the way they always act because that's where they live and [are] expected to do. I'll get the small vibes that come off of them and I'll be able to tell if BYU is the school for me."

Simply put, Barnes wants to go to a school where he can come right in and feel like he fits there.

"I don't want to have to be looking around all the time and say, ‘Oh, I can't be around this group of people because they're going to be doing this, or go to college and not have many friends because of things like that.' I want to go to college and have a lot of friends but I don't want to be around negative things that go against my values. That's going to be a big thing for me. I want to be on a team of like-minded people. When I ask my teammates, ‘Hey, let's go work out,' I want them to say yes because they don't go out partying and drinking. They want to have more time for football-related things and do more Christ-like things that are more important in our lives. That plays a big role on where I end up at the next level."

If BYU meets the criteria he just outlined, is there a real possibility that he might end up at BYU?

"I would have to say yes," Barnes said with a quick response.

BYU is Barnes' first official visit, and then he has plans to take official visits to other schools that have offered him.

"I have Western Kentucky, Penn State, Indiana and South Alabama," Barnes said. "I'm getting official visits set up with them and we'll see what happens."

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