Barnes, young DTs stepping up

CLEMSON - As strange as it may look, Tavaris Barnes is one of the old guys in the Clemson defensive tackles meeting room.

A redshirt sophomore from Jacksonville, Fla., Barnes logged seven tackles over nine games last season, during which he played 73 snaps.

He was a reserve behind Brandon Thompson, Rennie Moore and Tyler Shatley in 2011. Thompson and Moore will be selected later this month in the NFL Draft. Shatley is now on the offensive side of the ball at right guard.

Barnes is one of four defensive tackles that have emerged in the spring race for a spot on the two-deep depth chart. The two-deep foursome includes sophomores DeShawn Williams and Grady Jarrett and redshirt sophomore Josh Watson.

"It's an opportunity. Coach [Dabo] Swinney and coach [Dan] Brooks say that every day," Barnes said. "That just gives me motivation to go out and work. All the d-tackles are working, trying to get it."

Swinney's been impressed with Barnes' play this spring.

"He's been very, very good – very solid," Swinney said. "Dan has done a good job with him. I think he's turning the corner in buying into what he has to do to be a good player, on and off the field."

And, according to Swinney, that's going to critical to Clemson's success this season.

"He's got to be a good player for us," Swinney said. "If he's not a good player, then we're probably not going to be very good on defense. He has got to come through for us."

Barnes understands that how important he is to the Tigers' defense.

"I would say my whole mindset has changed," he said. "Now, when I get tired, I push through more than I did last fall. I know I've come into a role where I'm competing more."

Whispers of the youthful, inexperienced line being the weak link on the Clemson defense is plenty motivation for Barnes and the rest of his mates.

"We bring it every day. We put on our pads just like the offensive line put on their pads and the wide receivers put on their pads. We've just got to bring it," Barnes said. "We had veteran guys leave and we're young. We're going to step up to the plate." Top Stories