How Tavaris got his groove back

CLEMSON - Tavaris Barnes finally feels like the highly recruited defensive end prospect that he was coming out of First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Florida.

Way back in 2010, his senior year in high school, Barnes was a three-star prospect, according to Scout.com, and ranked as the No. 73 defensive end in the country. Once committed to Florida State, he also had offers from UNC and South Carolina.

Since arriving to Clemson, Barnes has logged 597 snaps along the defensive line with 45 tackles, 4.5 tackle for loss and three sacks.

Barnes told reporters during spring practice that he was finally feeling like his old self again.

"Everything, my whole game, just intensity, being a leader on and off the field, leading by example and working hard, playing hard, nasty, like I did in high school," he said. "I'm gaining my confidence back, just like I did when I was in 12th grade, so it's going to be ugly this year for a lot of people."

But it's taken some time to reach this point. Shortly after arriving from First Coast, Barnes was served a big old helping of humble pie, and over the last few years, he's had trouble cleaning his plate.

"When you come out of high school, you feel like you're the man. You get to college [and] you play behind people and don't play. So I lost confidence. I didn't believe in myself," Barnes said.

That's not an issue anymore.

"Now, I'm starting to believe that I can," he said. "I know I can. That's the difference. I'm playing with swagger out there on the field and I'm just doing my thing."

Two women helped him come to that realization.

"I would say my wife and my momma," Barnes said, "And just me, looking at the man in the mirror.

"What have I done last year? Nothing. No one knows me, so I have a chip on my shoulder. I have something to prove."

That's part of the reason why he opted to come back to school for his senior season and put his NFL aspirations on hold for a year.

"Just, I know I can maximize my opportunity by staying my last year. If I would have left last year, I know I would have hurt myself," Barnes said. "I prayed about it. I talked to my family about it also. I made the best decision, to come back and grind, be one of the top defensive ends in the nation next year. I feel like I could help by staying."

To help improve his stock, Barnes wants to get a grip on a starting job. He's started just one time in 34 career games at Clemson. For each of the last two seasons, he's been Corey Crawford's backup.

"Corey's a great player, but I'm tired of playing backseat," Barnes said. "That's what I've been doing my whole career here, not believing in myself, so I'm getting my confidence back. It's going to be real this year."

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