It's a safe assumption that Los Alamitos (Calif) High School head coach John Barnes knows a thing or two about talent. The 34-year coaching veteran has put better than a hundred players on division one rosters during his career- including two that are currently in the NFL. Last season, his squad began the year as the No. 2 prep team in the nation according to USA Today. Coach Barnes recalls that since 1991, his Los Alamitos squad has been rated as one of the nation's 20 best by USA Today six or seven times. At one point his team won 47 consecutive games.
Last year he had the privilege of starting his son Jimmy at QB and the younger Barnes didn't disappoint. In just his first year as the varsity starter, Barnes (6-5, 225 pounds) completed 158 of 265 passes for 2,346 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Although this season will only be the younger Barnes' second as a starter, Coach Barnes was quick to point out that this isn't out of the ordinary for his program.
"For us, he's only the fourth two-year starter we've had at QB in 25 years," said Barnes. "QB and receivers are our speciality. I think I've only had two QB's not get scholarships in 25 years. The two guys we have in the NFL right now didn't start as Sophomores. Of the other three two-year starters- one went to Nebraska to play for Tom Osborne. One went to Stanford and the other went to BYU to play for Norm Chow."
While admitting that he felt his son needed to "work on everything", Barnes was also quick to point out that next year could be a coming out party of sorts for Jimmy.
"Jimmy's got great arm strength and great size and he really understands the game," said Barnes. "He's also grown a lot. As a freshman he was a 6-foot pudgy guy. But now he's 6-5 and really well built. I don't know that he's even caught up with his body yet. He's killed himself since last season. I mean, college coaches that see him now won't recognize him from last season and I'm really proud of that.
"He's been working hard on his speed. He goes two or three days a week to work with a sprint coach. He increased his speed from about 5.4 (seconds in the 40-yard dash), which isn't very fast to about 5.0 or 5.1. The biggest thing is I think there's a lot of upside. I do know that if he waits until October or November to make a decision, his stock will rise so fast. Once they see him compared to last year- there's no comparison."
Playing in a west-coast style offense with a couple of ultra-talented wideouts and the largest classification in California, the table would appear set for Barnes to see his stock soar over the coming months.
However, he's already entertained a flurry of recruiting attention in May including scholarship offers from former Pack QB coach Mike Canales at Arizona, Alabama and Colorado State. In addition to those three, Barnes has received heavy interest from Miami, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame, NC State, USC and UCLA.
NC State became involved when Pack QB coach Curt Cignetti got wind of Barnes and called to request film. At this point, the Wolfpack is still in the evaluation process but keeping a close eye on Barnes to see how he progresses.
Coach Barnes said that his son was very impressed with Philip Rivers and had the chance to watch the Pack play four or five times last year.
"The Philip Rivers thing really fascinated him because he could see himself fitting that mold of QB," said Barnes.
The younger Barnes expounded on his feelings about the Wolfpack.
"I've just seen the success they've (NC State) had," said Barnes. "I've watched them since I was little and seen guys like Philip Rivers come through there. Everyone loves to play the game out there and they've got great enthusiasm.
"I talked to Coach Cignetti. He was telling me about a couple of guys they had. We had a nice talk. They asked about me coming to camp but I'm going to decide over the next few days which schools are really interested in me. I would feel better about State if they offered but I already liked them. They're probably one of my top two schools right now."
As for a top five, Barnes said he's wide open at the current time.
"I'm just looking around right now and checking out my options," said Barnes. "I don't really have any favorites."
Barnes plans to major in Education or Business and added that distance will not play a role in his final decision. He said he hopes to make a decision by the end of the summer but won't select a school until he finds one that he's completely comfortable with.