Several times during his Tuesday afternoon's time with the media a reporter would somehow try to get Barnett to talk about – and compliment – himself. One would ask his about physical style of play, while another would ask if he felt he was starting to emerge as a key player before his season-ending injury early in the 2010 season.
Each time, however, the sophomore would deflect the attention. For example, when asked about his success last year, Barnett credited the coaching staff.
"With the game experience, I guess you get better," Barnett said. "But it's all coaching. They make sure we're in the right positions to make plays."
Barnett might not want to talk about his on-field efforts, but Ohio State fans certainly noticed his play in the secondary in the first two games of last season. He earned the starting safety spot out of preseason camp and recorded five tackles in Ohio State's first two games. The Clayton (Ohio) Northmont product made his impression known, especially in the second game of the season Sept. 11 against visiting Miami (Fla.). Barnett jumped in front of a receiver in the first quarter and tipped a Jacory Harris pass into the hands of Nathan Williams, who returned the interception inside the 10-yard line. That set up an Ohio State field goal for the game's first points. Barnett later made highlight reels for his open-field hit of Leonard Hankerson as the Miami receiver went over the middle of the field to try to haul in a pass.
Unfortunately for Barnett, his 2010 story ended soon after those plays. He went down with a knee injury in the third quarter, one that would later require surgery and sideline him for the rest of the season. Barnett did not allow himself to mope, however, and fortunately for the Buckeyes, Orhian Johnson – ironically enough the player who was in a preseason battle with Barnett at strong safety before a calf injury took him out of the running – replaced Barnett and played well.
"Stuff happens," Barnett said of his injury. "It wasn't that bad because with me getting hurt, it opened up other spots for other people to play, and we call can play."
Barnett may not lamented his fate, but his teammate Travis Howard admitted to feeling disappointment for his secondary mate.
"When he went down last year, it hurt me because I knew what type of player he was," the cornerback said. "Just to have him back this year, healthy and strong, is a positive for our defense."
Barnett said he spent his down time last season absorbing Ohio State's playbook, learning not just what a safety needed to know but also the defensive linemen and linebackers. That knowledge of the defense has already been noticed by Howard.
"He knows where he has to be at, when he has to be there," Howard said. "He's a guy that can anticipate where the ball is going to go. So it allows our defense to make more plays and our secondary to be more together and make more plays."
Barnett does not have a starting spot solidified but certainly appears to be in the mix to be a big-time contributor for the Buckeyes this fall. In the first two practices of the season, Barnett and Johnson were the first-team safeties. He's even already made an impression, intercepting a pass on the first day of practice and returning it for a touchdown during seven-on-seven drills.
"It's been a while since I've done this stuff with my team," Barnett said of being back to practice. "I know I was there in the spring, but I wasn't able to go full-go. So being here and being full-go, 100 percent feels good. It's good to be back here with my boys."
Barnett is also more appreciative about being back on the field after having it taken away last fall.
"Anything can happen and you can be done playing real quick," he said. "I know going through camp last year and other years we all dreaded it, but after going through an injury you appreciate being out here every day."