Raising the Bar(field)

Isiah Barfield is feeling pretty good about himself these days. After all, he's coming off arguably the best game of his career last Saturday against North Dakota State and appears primed to shine the rest of the season.

The junior cornerback from Haven, Kan., recorded five tackles (he had just 10 career stops entering this season) and his second career interception versus NDSU, his first since picking off a pass against Sam Houston State his freshman season in 2008.

This was just his third career start after seeing action on the first play against South Florida and Sam Houston State in the third and fourth game of ‘08.

"It felt good," said Isiah Barfield, who didn't know he was starting until just before gametime. "It's been a while since I played significant snaps. It felt amazing. My mom and dad were here, my little brother, my grandma were here. It just felt good for my family and myself."

It's been a long journey for Barfield since arriving at Kansas in 2007 after a standout career at Haven High School. He was named all-MCAA as a running back from 2004-06, an all-league selection as a defensive back in 2005 and 2006 and as a kick returner and punter in ‘06. Barfield, who collected more than 500 rushing yards, 304 receiving yards and 600 return yards in 2006, was ranked the No. 14 player in the state by one national Web site following his senior season.

After redshirting in 2007, Barfield played his first four games at cornerback as a freshman in 2008 before being benched and not playing again until the Insight Bowl against Minnesota. He was then switched to receiver as a sophomore last year, where he played in seven games on special teams.

When Turner Gill replaced Mark Mangino as KU head coach last December, he moved Barfield back to cornerback. And the player known in his hometown as the "The Speedster from Haven" is feeling pretty comfortable and thriving these days in his role. He said playing receiver last season has helped his play.

"I can see a lot of things more than I did when I was a freshman or sophomore, knowing a little bit more about the offense from being on that side of the ball," Barfield said.

"Things have slowed down for me. I went out there (against NDSU) and tried to make as many plays as I could."

While he's found a home in the secondary, Barfield is the consummate team player who doesn't hesitate when asked if he prefers cornerback to receiver.

"Wherever coach wants me to play, I'll play," Barfield said. "If I have to go back to receiver next year, I'll gladly do it."

It looks like Barfield is at cornerback to stay. He made many plays last Saturday, including his interception in the endzone in the second quarter with KU leading 3-0.

"It was pretty exciting," Barfield said. "I really didn't think he (QB Jose Mohler) was going to throw it. I had my man (Warren Holloway) pressed and he couldn't get an inside release. When he threw it, my eyes got big and I jumped up and caught it."

Barfield, though, erred by running the ball out of the endzone and getting tackled on the one-yard line.

"For a split second I thought of Aqib (Talib, former Jayhawk star) when he went 106, 107 (yards for an interception return for a touchdown against Florida International on Sept. 22, 2007)," Barfield said. "But then reality came down and I (realized) I was in the endzone. I was doing my best to try and get down but the guys were tacking me out of the endzone. It was bad on my part. I should have caught it and got down because the offense got terrible field position."

KU's offense never got untracked in its 6-3 season-opening loss. However, the defense performed admirably. Kansas allowed just 168 yards of total offense, including only 95 yards through the air.

"Our defense fought around out there," Barfield said. "We did what we were coached to do for the most part."

That wasn't much consolation, though, for Barfield and his teammates as they headed to the locker room after the defeat.

"It was surreal," Barfield said. "I just thought I was in a nightmare waiting to wake up, but I never did. It hurts."

But Barfield has put that game behind him and is ready to play well again and help KU shock No. 15 Georgia Tech on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

"The belief is you make the most improvement from game one to game two," Barfield said. "We're going to come there and play football. ... We're very optimistic. Any given Saturday, any team can win."

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