Home In Carolina: Barnes Is a Gamecock

Richland Northeast (Columbia, SC) 5-star safety Mark Barnes announced his college choice on Saturday afternoon after taking part in the 70th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. Barnes, who had narrowed his choices down to South Carolina and Louisville, committed to Head Coach Steve Spurrier and the home state Gamecocks.

Following the Sandlappers 23-16 loss to North Carolina, Barnes announced his commitment to South Carolina in front of a crowd of nearly one hundred onlookers. Barnes opened by saying, "Not too many athletes get this opportunity that I've had in having over thirty-plus offers and basically being able to write my scholarship anywhere I'd like to go, but two schools came out to the forefront at the very beginning. That'd be Louisville and the University of South Carolina. Both of these schools have done a wonderful job, not only recruiting me, but my family as well. There really is no wrong decision here."

As the anxious crowd eagerly awaited his decision, Barnes shared what he liked about each of his two finalists. "First, the University of South Carolina is an up-and-coming team. They have a great coach, wonderful fans, and great recruiters in Steve Spurrier Junior and Coach (David) Reaves. It is the home town school, and I could definitely see myself playing in Williams Brice Stadium," said Barnes. "Louisville has an up-and-coming program as well. Coach (Joe) Whitt, which is my recruiter, has done a heck of a job recruiting me and showing love and concern, not only for me as an athlete but a student as well. My family and I really enjoyed our trip there and enjoyed our in-home visit with Coach Whitt also. Louisville has great fans as well. I still can hear the crowd from the Miami game. Coach (Bobby) Petrino is becoming a legend in his own right and is really doing some great things at Louisville. They have promised to play me at both, either wide receiver or free safety."

An enthusiastic Barnes then drew cheers from the crowd as he announced his commitment to the home state Gamecocks. "I'm going to go ahead and get it over with. I will be going to the University of South Carolina," said Barnes. The 5-star athlete continued by sharing what factors helped him choose USC over Louisville. "It was basically (South Carolina) just recruiting me as an athlete, and also recruiting me as a student. To me, I feel that being recruited as a student is the most important thing in my life. Of course I have to go to school and play ball, but also I have to do my work and graduate… I basically just let it come down to what my heart said."

Barnes said that another important factor in his decision to become a Gamecock was the support of the South Carolina fans. "I just want the love to go back to the fans as much love as they gave to me. I feel comfortable there actually playing for them also. It's about to be fun," said Barnes. "I feel like I'm at home right now. I'm in South Carolina right now. That's how I feel. The fans just make me feel so comfortable."

The Richland Northeast standout, who could play either wide receiver or safety at the college level, made it no secret that he hopes to contribute early as a Gamecock. "No doubt, that's basically my aim. That's what I really want to do. I want to come in and help as soon as possible, and if that means as a true freshman, then let it be," said Barnes. "I'll play any position that gets me on the field faster, and also what will help the team out."

One of the main selling points for Steve Spurrier and the USC coaches has been the opportunity to do things that have never been done at South Carolina, such as winning an SEC Championship. Barnes echoed those sentiments on Saturday afternoon. "Looking over the field today, seeing all the future Gamecocks that will be playing with me, I realize that the SEC Championship is within reach at South Carolina," said Barnes. "I'm real excited. We have basically the best team out there. That's how I feel right about now."

Barnes, who is rated the #2 safety in America by Scout.com, becomes the Gamecocks twenty-first commitment in the 2007 recruiting class.

Stay tuned to GamecockAnthem.com for all the latest on South Carolina recruiting.

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