LB Thomas Barnes from Dublin (Ga) High School received some great news a couple of weeks ago and the timing couldn't have been better for NC State. The Wolfpack's dire need for linebackers has been well-documented so when Barnes received a qualifying test score recently, it gave the Pack coaches a chance to swoop in and grab one of the more under-rated prospects in Georgia.
At 5-10, 210 pounds and 4.7-second speed in the 40-yard dash, Barnes didn't go unnoticed in his home state- finishing off the year with all-state honors as well as being named regional defensive player of the year.
As a senior Barnes rarely left the field, doubling as a fullback and linebacker for the Fighting Irish. On the year he rushed for 765 yards on 86 carries and scored seven touchdowns. He also had eight receptions for 145 yards and an additional score.
On defense, Barnes collected 67 tackles including four sacks and two interceptions- one of which was returned 55 yards for score. For good measure he chipped in a 77-yard kickoff return for a score.
After picking up an early offer from Middle Tennessee State, prep school or junior college looked like a distinct possibility for Barnes. While his GPA had always been solid, he needed to clear the hurdle of a qualifying test score before State could firm up an offer. When that happened, the Pack wasted no time in extending an invitation to Raleigh.
"Coach (Andy) McCollum, he spent some time working down at our school," Barnes told Pack Pride. "He was a friend of my high school coach and he had always told me that where ever he went, he was taking me with him."
The Pack's new LB coach stuck to his word and Barnes took him up on State's recent scholarship offer when he committed to the Wolfpack before leaving Raleigh this weekend.
"I had a great time on my visit," said Barnes. "Actually, I committed. The facilities and stadium really sold me but I know the coaches will help me get better and I really feel like they're a team that's about to do something. We got to go to the basketball game and that was just amazing. I never thought they would beat Carolina in basketball. That was definitely a big win for the basketball team."
Barnes was hosted by Wolfpack LB Lerue Rumph and several members of the current NC State team also did their part to sell the future of Pack football.
"They really did a good job of making me feel like I fit in," said Barnes. "You can tell that they really feel like the coaches are going to make them a better team."