Combines and training camps are important tools in gauging a prospect's athleticism, but that is only part of their value. Insight into a player's on-field demeanor can also be weaned. At last weekend's Army All-American combine in San Antonio, Detroit Cass Tech DT Joseph Barksdale showed tenaciousness that belies his laid back demeanor off the field. While he certainly didn't win every battle, he seemed to really enjoy competing against the very best…whether that meant facing the biggest opponent available or fighting through a stiff double team.
"Football is a sport, so it's supposed to be fun," Barksdale said. "You should enjoy what you do. If no one else is going to step up to try and take on the best in drills, I'm not going to leave a spot open. I try to go out there and play like Reggie White. He is my hero. He walked my auntie down the aisle at her wedding."
Barksdale displayed those same competitive characteristics in Ann Arbor last summer at Michigan's annual football camp. The 6-5, 305-pounder's ability earned him a special invitation from Michigan's headman before he left. "Michigan offered me a scholarship right after their summer camp last year," Barksdale recalled. "It was similar to this (i.e. the combine in San Antonio). We did some testing, we did some drills, and we did one on ones. Then we went into Lloyd Carr's office and he offered me a verbal scholarship."
The Maize and Blue lost out to Ohio State on former Cass Tech standout Vernon Gholston after they got involved too late. That clearly will not be an issue with Barksdale, as they have made him a very early priority for the 2007 class. Spearheading the Wolverines efforts in recruiting the Motor City standout has been assistant Erik Campbell. The veteran receivers coach has already made a lasting impression. "Coach Campbell is a very nice person," Barksdale said. "I like the way he comes across. He is not trying to pressure me into anything. He is very respectful and is just a good person. I feel the same way about Coach Carr."
Michigan was joined in their early focus on Barksdale by the Michigan State Spartans, but that doesn't necessarily mean the two in-state schools have the early edge in his recruitment. "Only Michigan and Michigan State have offered right now, but I really haven't gone to any camps at any other schools yet," he said. "I plan to go to the Ohio State camp this summer. I have a list of about 25 schools right now. I can't really narrow it down yet. I'm just trying to finish out my junior year. I'll start to cut it down after I get a look at all of the schools. I'll check out some media guides and take a few visits. I'll have it narrowed down to a top five about a month before I take my official visits next year. Those will be a really big part of my decision. I'm not really for any one school right now. I'm open to any school in the mail at this point."
After Barksdale has whittled things down and begins to look more seriously at a group of finalists, there will be one factor in his final choice that stands above the rest. "Most football players look for the girls or the quickest way to get to the NFL and things like that," he said. "Me personally…I'm not saying the NFL is not for me, but you always have to have a back up. I'll obviously be looking for a program where the football is good and where I can play…but aside from that, I'm really looking for a place that is educationally sound and that has a high rate of graduation."
There will be plenty of time for Barksdale to find the blend of academics and
football that he is looking for. The Detroit native plans to wait well over
a year before determining his collegiate destination. "I'm going to announce
my decision on the sideline at the Army All-American game next year," he
said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to get there."