Mark Barnes on "The Sports Drive"
ESPN Radio's "The Sports Drive" airs Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. on 93.1 FM in Columbia.
RT: Did the South Carolina fans play a role in your decision to become a Gamecock?
MB: Oh yeah, no doubt. I mean it's just like going to a football game. If you don't have any fans, what type of football game is it? You always have to take it back to the fans that support you.
RT: The enthusiasm of Gamecock football seems to be at an all time high right now. Does that feel good knowing that you're going to be a part of something that is blowing up here?
MB: Oh yeah, I feel it every day and every single time I take a breath in. It feels really good.
RT: You are obviously a standout player at both safety and wide receiver, but do you know where you're going to get your first look position-wise at South Carolina?
MB: I really don't know right about now. I feel that safety will probably be the first, but then again, like they said, they gave me the option to pick whichever one I would like to go in and fill first.
RT: I've got to ask you, which position would you prefer to start out at?
MB: I told them at first that it all depends on which position they need me most at, but if it doesn't even come down to that, then they can put me at wide receiver.
RT: At RNE you played in an offense that really did not focus on the pass. For a player of your skill level, was that a little frustrating to only have ten catches on the year as a wide receiver?
MB: It was very frustrating to play wide receiver this year at that point in time, because I really didn't see that many balls this year. I really didn't fault anybody, I just took it upon myself to do better on defense and make up for it.
RT: Did you talk with Rodney Paulk, your former teammate at RNE, a lot during the recruiting process to see how things were going at South Carolina? If so, what kind of advice did he give you?
MB: I talked to a lot of guys. I talked to Noah Whiteside, Sidney Rice, Cory Boyd, Syvelle Newton, Carlos Dunlap, Carlos Thomas, Fred Bennett, and all those boys. I also talked to Rodney (Paulk), and they've given me basically good examples as far as once you come in, if you do your job well, then there's no doubt that you'll end up on the field. Once you end up on the field, it's on you to make sure whether you start or not.
RT: Are you excited as an athlete and as a competitor knowing that you're coming into a situation, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where you know if you do well that you can earn quality snaps and possibly even start as a true freshman?
MB: I feel real comfortable coming in and trying to start as fast as I can. I feel comfortable. First, it's my teammates. I already call my teammates, because we talk like teammates, and we lead each other like teammates. I felt comfortable around the surroundings around there, and I know that they'll help me get everything situated.
RT: Without getting too personal and too detailed, do you feel good about your chances to qualify, and where does that stand right now?
MB: I feel there's no doubt that I'll make it.
RT: Congratulations on a splendid high school career, getting selected to the Shrine Bowl, and being rated the #2 safety prospect in the nation by Scout.com. I guess the last thing I'll ask you Mark, are you going to get Gary Gray's mind right in this last week or week and a half to get him to go to South Carolina with you?
MB: I've been trying (to turn him to USC) for the past couple of weeks. I've been talking to him and stressing to him that he started the puzzle, and whoever started the puzzle should still be in that puzzle. If not, it's not really a puzzle anymore. It becomes something else. I'm still working on him, and hopefully he'll change his mind again and come back to where he needs to be.
RT: Do you think there's any chance that when it comes down to it, he'll follow his former teammate, Rodney Paulk, and follow you, his current teammate, and make that change?
MB: Right now I feel there's no doubt that South Carolina is still deeper in his heart. There's no doubt. When I talk to him and things like that, I can just see it in his facial expressions and actually know that South Carolina is still in his heart.
RT: Okay if you've got time for one final question, have you gotten to know quarterback Stephen Garcia any through the recruiting process?
MB: Oh yeah, that's a big time thing. Me and him talked a long time ago when he came down here for a visit, and ever since then we've been cool. For the longest time, we've just been talking on the phone and going over the recruiting process and stuff like that. I've been recruiting them all to South Carolina, so we're just trying to have fun with this recruiting thing and go ahead and get on the field next year and show them what we've got.
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