Is there a leader for 5-star Mark Barnes? five-star prospect Mark Barnes is planning to select between Louisville and South Carolina following his participation in the December 16 Shrine Bowl. Has the slim lead that the Gamecocks have held over the Cardinals evaporated? has the latest...

This past Sunday, five-star prospect Mark Barnes of Richland Northeast in Columbia, South Carolina, told that he had narrowed his list of schools to just two - Louisville and South Carolina - and that he'd announce his college intentions following the December 16 Shrine Bowl.

While that hasn't changed, one other detail has. South Carolina's slim lead over the University of Louisville the past few weeks has apparently evaporated.

"Both of them are really fighting to be number one with me," said Barnes. "Right now I can't really pick one to have on top, because they are both fighting so hard to get me to come to their school."

In addition to being constant with his list of favorites throughout the recruiting process, the 6'3, 195-pound receiver/safety has also maintained that the importance of academics and the support his future school provides would play a large role in eventual college choice. Barnes, who has taken official visits with both of his favorites, is quick to point out that Gamecocks have made that a priority throughout the process.

"What really brought them up was that the coaches there have been straight-forward with me," said Barnes. "There haven't been any lies or anything like that. All of the coaches there have been real with me. Also, they are planning my academics for the future instead of the present and now just about how they can get me in there."

U of L assistant Joe Whitt Jr., visited with Barnes earlier this week and used the time to discuss Barnes academic future.

"Coach Whitt from Louisville came down on Monday and they really picked up on that," explained Barnes, who has an in-home date set with the Cardinals later this month. "They will be back either at the end of this week or after the Shrine Bowl for a home visit."

With the Cardinals and Gamecocks now even, Barnes said that his decision will be a difficult one. "I think it will basically come down to how I feel and where my I feel my heart wants me to be," he said. "It's going to be tough."

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