Jason Barnes to get first start against LSU

When USC signed the top wide receiver class in the nation last February, Jason Barnes was frequently viewed as the one who could be the most likely to start and have a major impact as a freshman. He will get his first start against the #1 defense in the nation. Read this exclusive interview on what he had to say about LSU, and how he and his parents are feeling about the Gamecocks' chances.

During his weekly call-in show, Steve Spurrier announced that he would start Jason Barnes this weekend in Baton Rouge. The talented 6'3" freshman takes the stage in the biggest game so far this season, against #2 LSU. "The Barnes duo has come around," he said. "Jason Barnes and Mark Barnes, they should play a lot more. Jason's going to start at split-end, in place of Moe Brown. Moe has struggled a little bit lately; we'll give Jason a chance to see what he can do."

Last weekend against S.C. State, Barnes caught the first pass of his collegiate career, leaping high into the air over a defender, bringing down a 34-yard completion deep in Bulldog territory.

Jason's parents, Ray and Alecia Hines, spoke with GamecockAnthem while tailgating outside Williams-Brice stadium. "I'm excited for my son. Being here - the atmosphere and seeing everything the Gamecocks have to offer him - I'm glad he chose this school. I'm so excited for him to be here." his mother said.

The Gamecocks won a fierce recruiting battle with Barnes' home state school, the North Carolina Tar Heels. His mother talked about that, saying, "It was a close decision, and it was a fight, but the best man/school won. The deciding factor was the atmosphere down here, and when Coach (Fred) Chatham came to visit us in our home, the talk that we had with him. And that made it easy after that. We never looked back; we feel he made the right decision. He's very happy here, and we're very happy that he is here."

One thing stands out to Jason's dad about South Carolina: "I know they're real passionate about football," he said with a grin. He sized up what he had seen thus far of the program: "They're looking real good; the defense is looking real strong. Hopefully the offense will catch up to them." When speaking of his son, he said, "I think he can get in and make a few plays, hopefully keep working hard and continue to grow."

Barnes played high school ball for Independence High School in Charlotte, NC, perennially one of the top programs in the South. Independence runs a similar offense to the Gamecocks. During an exclusive interview this summer prior to practices starting up, Barnes shared with GamecockAnthem why his high school play might have given him a leg up in preparing for the next level: "A lot of our plays and techniques are based on college experience. It just gets us ready for the next level. It's like a different speed of game. We don't really play to have fun. It's like a business already in high school. We go to win."

"They told me from day one that I would have the chance to step on the field and make plays." Barnes continued. "They're going to give all of us a chance to step into Sidney Rice's spot, and they said that I and Chris Culliver have the greatest chance." Rice has taken his game to the NFL's Minnesota Vikings this season, and the Gamecock player whose game most closely resembles that of Rice is also wearing his jersey number – Jason Barnes, #4.

The most glaring need South Carolina faces in order to be able to compete with LSU will be an improved passing game. Tight end has become a position this season that is more than just a blocking threat; it is also a legitimate option for catching the ball. Spurrier said Thursday night that his team will not lack for players at the tight end position to play against the Bayou Bengals. "Jared Cook, Weslye Saunders, Andy Boyd, Nick Prochak, we've got about seven tight ends going on the trip."

The other part of what Spurrier referred to as "the Barnes duo" is Mark Barnes, who spent most of the preseason practicing on defense, playing safety. When he was switched to offense, he had to play catch-up, learning much of Spurrier's complicated offensive playbook. "Mark Barnes, once he learns his plays, he's going to play a lot at one of the receivers." Spurrier said. "Those two guys and Kenny McKinley, Larry Freeman, they're all ready to play. Hopefully they'll catch some passes."

The LSU game is without question one of the most important games the USC squad has played in some time, and Saturday's outcome could affect their goal of winning the school's first ever SEC championship. Spurrier drills his players and coaches to take the season one game at a time, but before the season started, Jason Barnes said there was one certain game that stood out to him: "Yeah, when I looked at that LSU game in Baton Rouge, that made me think, that's the game that really stood out. That LSU game, I know it's going to be big."

Kickoff is at 3:30 EST. The game will be the national game of the week on CBS.

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