Obviously Joseph Barksdale (6-4, 310-pounds) has good size, but that isn't unusual for players attending the junior combine. I think more than anything, what struck me about Joseph was his persona. He is just a junior in high school, yet he appeared extremely confident and focused.
"It was a great experience," Barksdale said of the U.S. Army junior combine. "It was a great atmosphere. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to get that much exposure on a national level. Right now it's all about getting a college scholarship, and I think it really helped raise my stock a lot.
"It was definitely a learning experience. It gave me an idea of what to look forward to in college. Knowing that these are the best players in the country and actually doing well against them gives you a little bit of confidence."
"I was learning to compete against guys at that level," Joseph recalled. "I had my technique down pat, but I learned what type of technique to use with different types of players. The rip isn't going to work on every person. The swin isn't going to work on every person. I also learned how to adjust to different players with different styles."
By the time the combine ended, Barksdale was highlighted on everyone's prospect sheet – Barksdale was a secret no more. What is even more remarkable about Joseph is that he's only scratched the surface in terms of what he is capable of accomplishing on the gridiron.
"I grew up a basketball fan. I wanted to go to the NBA until I got to high school.," Joseph explained of his background. "I'll never forget. It was the admission day for eighth graders and I was filling out a questionnaire for the basketball team. I remember the offensive coordinator for the varsity football team, coach Gottfried. He took the paper out of my hand, balled it up and threw it away. Then he put down a football paper and said ‘this is the one for you.'"
At some point that story will be followed by "and the rest is history." But there is still much to accomplish, and by talking to Joseph you can tell that he understands that.
"I think if you use your time well and spend it well, anything can be accomplished," he responded when asked if all this had come upon him quickly. "My goal is to make it to the Army All-American East team next year."
With a strong senior season Barksdale certainly could achieve that goal. While he's working his way toward the U.S. Army All-American bowl, he'll be dealing with a lot of college recruiters as well.
"The main schools that have been sending mail consistently are Florida State, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State," Barksdale said when asked which schools were recruiting him the hardest. "Those are probably the five that are sending the most mail. I have two offers, one from Michigan and one from Michigan State. Ohio State said they're were going to offer when I came to work out at their camp."
The Irish desperately need talented defensive lineman in their next recruiting class, but they were a team Barksdale didn't mention.
"They stopped by during the season last year," Barksdale replied when asked if he had interest in being recruited by Notre Dame. "I know most colleges are focusing on seniors because national signing day is real close, so I understand. I'm interested in any school that's in the hunt for the national championship year in and year out. I can tell that it won't be their (Notre Dame's) last year.
"I know a little about Notre Dame. That was one of the schools my dad watched this year, to see how their season was going to turn out. I think he's done a very good job with their team because their record picked up so much. They lost to Ohio State, but they still had a very, very good season. I was very excited about that."
Barksdale statistics from his junior year: 83 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and two deflected passes.