The Fighting Irish, one of the top programs in Class AA football in the state of Georgia, have come up short in recent years but finished 2006 14-0-1 after winning the state title.
Barnes, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound dual-way talent, starred on both sides of the ball for Dublin. He finished with 67 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions, and an interception return for a touchdown while playing outside linebacker, and Barnes added 765 yards and seven touchdowns as Dublin's starting fullback. Toss in a 77-yard kickoff return for a score and you have a player that contributed in every possible manner as a senior.
For his efforts, Barnes was tabbed all-conference and Conference Player of the Year, and he was also a first-team All-State selection. Barnes was also named Class AA Defensive Player of the Year.
|"He's a very physical player, and he just loves contact."|
Dublin head coach Mike Holmes raved about his star player.
"The best thing about Thomas is when the lights come on, he comes to play," said coach Holmes. "He really becomes special. He's a very physical player, and he just loves contact. I think his biggest strength is his athleticism. We're talking about a kid who played post at 5-foot-10 on the basketball team that won a state championship his junior year. That tells you how explosive and tough he is.
"He's really explosive and fast. Thomas is a 4.5/4.53 kid in the 40-yard dash. I do know that he had a terrible time at the NIKE Camp. I wasn't there, and when he got back he told me that he slipped on both of his runs up at that camp. I can tell you for a fact that he runs much faster than he ran there."
"We're talking about a kid who averaged right at 10 yards a carry for two seasons here as a running back," added coach Holmes. "He's just so explosive, and he's a great athlete, but Thomas is also a winner. The last two teams he's played on have won state championships."
Barnes flew under the recruiting radar because most programs believed he would have to attend junior college prior to enrolling in Division-I. However, after posting solid grades in the classroom last fall, Barnes is now academically qualified.
"There is no question that his grades had hindered his recruitment," said Holmes. "His SAT came up short the first time around, and we really thought he would have to attend junior college. But he buckled down, did some great things in the classroom the first semester and when he received his ACT earlier this month we found out that he is now qualified.
"There have been several schools that tried to get in right after he got his scores back, but he's probably going to commit to North Carolina State this weekend."
|"There is a connection with NC State."|
Barnes will be in Raleigh this weekend for an official visit. Looking for a connection? New Wolfpack linebackers coach Andy McCollum, the former head coach at Middle Tennessee State, spent time this past fall helping coach at Dublin while he was unemployed. Also, coach Holmes, a MTSU alum, takes his Dublin team to Middle Tennessee State for camps each year, and coach McCollum has developed a strong relationship with Barnes.
"Well, there is a connection with NC State," said coach Holmes. "One of the new coaches they just hired, Andy McCollum, who was the former head coach at Middle Tennessee State, had seen him in some camps when he was the head coach at Middle Tennessee State.
"Also, coach 'Mac' had a chance to see him some more this season when he was unemployed from coaching, and I know he really likes Thomas. He knows what Thomas can do on the football field, and Thomas is very comfortable with coach McCollum."
After starting at fullback and linebacker for Dublin, coach Holmes believes Barnes will play linebacker on the next level.
"I don't think there is any question that he will be a linebacker in college," said Holmes. "He's really built and cut up right now, but I think he will end up playing at about 225 or 230 pounds on that next level."