"T.J. is going up to Louisville this weekend," Enterprise coach Kevin Collins said. "He's interested in Louisville. He has taken a visit to Georgia Tech. He's going to go up to Louisville this week and probably Auburn next weekend and then he's probably looking to make a decision. I think he has a legitimate interest in (Louisville)."
Louisville, Georgia Tech and Auburn appear the final three for Barnes signature on a national letter of intent next month.
finalists for massive lineman T.J. Barnes.
"There are possibly others but those are the ones he's lined up to visit," Collins said. "We're going to look at making a decision on this probably when he gets back from Auburn. Those would be his Top 3 I would say."
Barnes has family ties to Auburn and the Tigers will get the final visit before the two-way standout sits down to make his decision. Is Auburn the team to beat for Barnes' services?
"I don't know," Collins said. "I told him to make sure to keep this thing wide-open and to listen to everyone. Alabama had shown interest but they are full on their scholarships. He liked Alabama but I think he's opened this thing back up to everyone."
A young prospect – he's only 17 - Collins believes the ultimate factor in Barnes' decision will be finding a school that he feels will take the time to work and develop his talents on and off the field.
"I don't think there is anything that is necessarily going to keep him close to home," Collins said. "T.J. was in Daytona Beach, Florida for most of his (high school) career and moved back here last year. So he's already away from where he grew up. I think he's going to look at what school is going to provide him the best opportunity to grow as an individual. There's a good possibility that he will go the redshirt path so I don't think that early playing time will be a determining factor."
Former Louisville assistant Mike Mallory got the Cardinals in the door with Barnes and teammate Ken Adams. Louisville assistant Mark Nelson has taken over after Mallory's departure from Kragthorpe's staff.
As for Adams, there had been some thought that he would visit Louisville with Barnes. But that isn't going to happen.
"T.J. was recruited real well by Coach (Mike) Mallory who has now left," Collins said. "Coach (Mark) Nelson has taken over his recruitment. They've both done a good job. Louisville did all the right things and just recruited him real hard. They showed interest in Ken Adams, too, but he's not going up there this weekend because he is not going to qualify and will have to go the junior college route. They are focusing everything on T.J. right now."
Is it a negative for Louisville that Mallory is no longer on the Cardinals staff?
"He kind of went through the same thing at Georgia Tech when Coach (Chan) Galiey was let go and that did not affect him or his interest in Georgia Tech and I don't think it will affect his interest in Louisville," said Collins. "He's excited about going to Louisville this weekend and has given no indication that Mallory's departure has had an effect."
Barnes played both sides of the ball at Enterprise, though he primarily played on the defensive line. Louisville and Georgia Tech are recruiting him to play defense; Auburn prefers him on the offensive line.
"Everybody likes him pretty much defensively," said Collins. "He has great flexibility and quick feet. He's a very young kid – he just turned 17 this summer. He's still growing into his body but he's got a lot of upside. He's got great speed for a kid his size."
Barnes, who made 24 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, one pass break up, one caused fumble and an interception this season, also plays basketball.
"He's athletic," Collins said. "The thing everybody has been excited about is his ability to get down in a stance. He turned out real well at the Auburn camp this summer. You just don't find many kids that size with that kind of speed and flexibility. That's what's made him so attractive."