Big Sophomore Year Put Barnett On The Map

Ohio State fans were celebrating when the Buckeyes locked up a verbal commitment from four-star cornerback prospect C.J. Barnett during the winter. Looking back on his career, the groundwork for Barnett's success was laid during his second year in high school -- and just his first year at the varsity level.

When he arrives on Ohio State's campus next season, C.J. Barnett will be hoping to make a quick impact on the Buckeyes roster.

After all, if he just learned the cornerback position as a sophomore, imagine how much potential he still has left to reach. Now a four-star prospect and the No. 11 cornerback prospect in the country as judged by Scout.com, the senior at Clayton (Ohio) Northmont is in just his third year at the cornerback position.

The result is a 6-1, 180-pound prospect who is still growing in his knowledge of his position.

"I had to learn corner pretty quick," he told BuckeyeSports.com. "That was pretty easy because a lot of the players helped me. The first game was a little fast, but after the first series I was used to it."

As a freshman, Barnett primarily lined up at quarterback and also spent some time at safety, so he had at least a passing knowledge of the defensive backfield. Adding to the difficulty of the position switch was the fact that Barnett was also in his first year at the varsity level.

Although he said he was used to it during the first game, Barnett added that he did not feel fully comfortable at the position until the third or fourth week of the season. He finished the year with two interceptions.

"I realized I knew what I was doing that game and I was comfortable with what I was doing," he said. "My first interception was game four."

As they say, the rest is history. Now a verbal member of OSU's class of 2009, Barnett is one player hoping to come in next season and immediately challenge for a spot on the depth chart.

There is more to Barnett than simply his on-field abilities, however. His performance as a sophomore had another effect on the team in the locker room. At the conclusion of the season, Northmont head coach Lance Schneider prepared to open up the voting by his players to select team captains for the following year.

Normally the opportunity is extended solely to seniors, but this time Schneider made an exception and Barnett was elected as a team captain – an honor he reprised as a senior, becoming the first two-time captain during Schneider's tenure.

"I opened it up because I didn't feel there was a lot of great leadership potential in the class in front of him," Schneider said. "Obviously the kids that were on the team the previous year saw him as a guy they thought could help lead them. He did a great job of it as a junior and has done a good job this year."

The transition was tough at times, Barnett said, adjusting to trying to lead players one year his senior. However, the honor was not lost on him.

"It was cool," he said. "I was pretty happy that the guys felt comfortable enough to put me in that position. It was great, but it was kind of hard because the seniors listened to a junior. It was hard to gain their respect and have them listen to me, but after a while they started to listen. I guess I earned their respect."

He also earned the respect of college coaches, which started to come calling as Barnett put together a solid junior season that saw him nab three interceptions. In mid-December, OSU extended Barnett a scholarship. He accepted a few weeks later after attending a junior day on campus.

When Barnett arrives on campus, he will have at least some passing similarities to former – and future – teammate Kurt Coleman.

"They know what kind of talent (Barnett) is," Schneider said. "He's going to graduate early and get up there for next spring. He should be a guy that probably can get on the field pretty early in his career because of his ability and his physical size."

According to the head coach, there is little left for his senior captain to improve upon.

"He's pretty good at all the stuff, really," he said. "We just want him to be as physical as he possibly can and read routes and try to make plays outside of the realm of being a corner. He's good at all that stuff. He does a great job in practice. Our receivers are good, but they have a difficult time with him. In the game, it's hard for him to get better because nobody goes at him."


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