Barksdale (6-6, 320, 4.9) had a very solid junior season in 2005. He collected 83 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He was also named first-team all-city and honorable mention all-state.
So, heading into the offseason, he knew he would have the chance to play Division I college football. But he did not anticipate being one of the top defensive tackles in the nation.
"It's really came as a surprise," Barksdale said. "My coach told me that I should have expected it, because that's what I worked hard for. But I just thought I was going to get scholarships from Michigan and some of the regional schools. So yeah, it's pretty much been a big surprise to me."
Barksdale said Ohio State was the first "surprise" offer that came his way.
"That was great," he said. "Ohio State was the No. 3 team in the country last year and I was really excited. It motivated me to work harder so I could get more offers like that. It really helped me gain confidence in myself and my abilities because if a team like Ohio State wants me to play defense for them, I must be pretty good."
Barksdale was expected to go on the "Ted Ginn Sr. Bus Tour" this summer, but he's still not sure of his plans.
"We're still looking it to it right now," he said. "It's not solidified, but it's a strong possibility."
Barksdale attended the Nike camp at Ohio State in May. He was arguably the best prospect in attendance and he showcased his strength by doing 34 bench reps of 185 pounds.
Everyone was impressed… except for Barksdale.
"I was pretty mad about it," he said. "I was trying to get 50. I think if I would have ate breakfast and would have warmed up I think I could have got to 50."
Barksdale is not in a hurry to make a decision. His plan is to make his announcement at the Army All-American Bowl in January on national television.
"Yes, because I figure if I can wait to commit until then – I'll probably graduate high school early – so I figure if I can commit at the game and then graduate after that, I won't have to deal with too many recruiters trying to get me to change my mind."
Players graduating early so they can participate in spring ball continues to be a growing trend in college football.
"My coach suggested it to me at the end of last year because he said it would help me as a preparation tip," Barksdale said. "I would be that much more prepared as a freshman. So, I'm really going into it as a good chance to get some preparation so I can compete for a starting spot as a freshman."
Barksdale was not a fan of any particular college team as a kid.
"No, not really," he said. "I didn't really get into sports until I started playing football back in the ninth grade. So, I didn't really grow up rooting for anybody. I just watch the games and take them as they come."
And although he's only followed the sport for less than four years, Barksdale already has a good feel for the storied Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.
"To me, it's the biggest rivalry in sports, period," Barksdale said. "People say it's the biggest rivalry in college football and one of the biggest rivalries in sports. I think it's the biggest rivalry in sports, period. It's always an exciting game and you never really know who is going to win, so it's a fun thing to watch."
Barksdale is definitely tall for a defensive tackle. There are those who believe tall DTs are at a disadvantage because they can't get low enough. However, even in the NFL, we are seeing more tall defensive tackles. Barksdale gave his educated opinion on the matter.
"It all depends on what the person can do," he said. "If a person can use his size and long arms and things like that, he can be a good defensive tackle. But if he can't, he should be a tall offensive tackle. Just like a short person. If he can't use his quickness, then he won't be able to be a defensive tackle. He would be an offensive guard. So, I think it depends on how the person uses his size, rather than the size of the person."
Barksdale is close friends with OSU sophomore defensive end Vernon Gholston, who also hails from Cass Tech. Gholston – who redshirted at OSU last season – was a high school senior when Barksdale was a freshman.
"Me and Vern, we are pretty tight," Barksdale said. "I really tried to do the things that he was doing when I was in the ninth grade. He really motivated me to start lifting the weights and running and getting serious about football, because I was trying to do the same things that he was doing."
Barksdale was asked if Gholson's presence might affect his decision.
"It's something to look at," he said. "I'm not going to say it's going to definitely make me go one place or the other, but it's definitely something to consider."
Barksdale explained what else he likes about Ohio State.
"The size of the campus, the university's tradition, and the fact that football is a big deal and Ohio State's players go on to the NFL," he said. "And the academic program is excellent. I was pretty impressed when I came down for my unofficial a couple weeks ago."
Barksdale also gave his take on OSU's coaching staff.
"They are all down-to-earth people," he said. "They seem like they really care about the players and the team. They seem concerned about each person not just playing football, but graduating with a degree."
It's something you don't see very often, but there are several top players from Michigan considering the Buckeyes this year. Ron Johnson is considered a long shot, but Dionte Allen could be a strong possibility.
"Yeah, I talk to Dionte a lot," Barksdale said. "I met him through my god-sister and I've seen him at a lot of recruiting things."
Barksdale does a lot of things well on the gridiron, but he gave a few of his strengths.
"Really powerful and quick off the ball," he said. "I have long arms like you said and I'm able to use my leverage well. I've got an eye for the ball, that kind of thing."
And what does he still want to improve on?
"Everything," he said. "My coach says there is always room for improvement, whether it be your strengths or weaknesses."
Barksdale is an intelligent young man, but he's also confident. Ask him how good Cass Tech will be this year, and he won't hesitate.
"State champions," he said.
* For more on Barksdale, tune in to the Bucknuts Radio Hour.