Barnett blossoming as defensive back

The biggest surprise of the spring has the move of Marcus Barnett from wide receiver to cornerback. What started as a joke between him and head coach Brian Kelly back at the Orange Bowl now has Barnett covering the very Cincinnati wide receivers this spring he used to run alongside the past two seasons.

"I feel it's going good," Barnett says of his switch to the defense. "I'm getting confidant, more confidant every day. I think if they put me out there in game situations I can really help this team out."

While Barnett has made a handful of impressive plays this spring season, coach Kelly is thankful that Barnett's first chance at game situations won't be coming for some time.

"Two plays look really good and then six or seven not so good, but he's learning and everybody's pleased with where he is because he's never been there before," Kelly says. "He's not Mike Mickens and he's not DeAngelo Smith and he's not [Brandon] Underwood, those guys played DB all their life. We want to get to the point where in five more months he's at that level."

Barnett says the entire UC coaching staff has been tremendously helpful with him making the switch by going over plays, watching film, and helping him out on the field. Kelly calls Barnett's willingness to learn one of his biggest strengths during this transition.

"The one thing about Barnett is he likes to play and he coachable, extremely coachable," Kelly says.

While Barnett has proven to be an impressive asset at the wide receiver position, there will be no lack of talent amongst the receiving core even with the absence of Barnett. Depth at the position, including Mardy Gilyard, D.J. Woods, Charley Howard, and Southern California transfer Vidal Hazelton, is what prompted Kelly to make the switch with Barnett.

"I think at the end of the day we're trying to improve our football team, and we felt like we had a luxury at the slot receiver position with Woods and Hazelton," Kelly says. "Barnett's an experienced guy who's always played aggressive and has never been afraid. He'll go over the middle without worrying, so we thought that that could be a fit. It's proven to be a good move for us."

Having been a wide receiver for so long, Barnett has brought the attributes that helped him succeed at that position to his new one, though having inside knowledge of what a wide out may be thinking has hurt him at times.

"It definitely helps me out a lot, but sometimes it can hurt you because you get a jump on a route and it's a double move and then you get caught," Barnett says. "My best attribute as a cornerback I believe is going up and getting the ball. Not a lot of corners I feel can go up and get the ball like I'll be able to being that I was a wide receiver."

Barnett matching up against his former running mates in the receiving core during drills has provided for some exciting show downs for teammates and onlookers to watch this spring. Barnett still calls himself the toughest UC wide receiver to cover, but when it's him doing the covering, Barnett has nothing but praise for the Bearcat's top returning receiver.

"I'll go with Mardy (Gilyard) because he's quick, he comes back to the ball, he has nice quick hands, and he's a good receiver," Barnett says.

For fans worried about missing seeing number 85 catching passes as a wide receiver, rest assured Barnett is working diligently on the coaching staff allowing him to continue doing so next season as well as playing cornerback. He admits he needs help in that quest, however.

"Everybody needs to get in coach Kelly's ear so hopefully I can go both ways this year," the current defensive back says.

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