Visit has Vols 'moving up' Barnett's list

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For Michael Barnett there are three factors that tower above all the rest when evaluating collegiate programs for his future home.

"Family is by far the most important thing to me," Barnett told InsideTennessee after his visit this past weekend in Knoxville. "They need to have a family environment and have a good Broadcast and Communications program. My dream is to be an ESPN commentator. It's also important they play the defense that I'm used to and I fit their system."

The Scout four-star prospect recruit came away impressed from his first visit to Rocky Top despite the Vols' homecoming loss to No. 7 Auburn.

"I really enjoyed the visit and the environment was awesome," said Barnett, rated the No. 30 end in the 2015 class. "I liked how big the stadium was and how loud the fans were. Win or lose they are still die hard Tennessee fans and they are going to cheer you on and bring your head up and have your back at all times."

He also enjoyed spending time with other top recruits who visited, such as Adoree Jackson, as they took it all in at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.

"It was really cool being around the top players in the nation and seeing what they look like," the junior said. "It's going to help me be prepared going into college football and knowing what the competition is going to look like."

After a breakout season for Woodland (S.C.) High School, in which he recorded a dozen quarterback sacks, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound pass rusher has received interest from many of the top BCS programs.

The Dorchester native has seven scholarship offers: Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

"I like Tennessee right now and they are moving up on my list after seeing what they have to offer," he said. "Right now my top two are Virginia Tech and Florida State, but I love the environment here (in Knoxville) and the family vibe."

This season the Vols rank dead last in sacks in SEC play and have been torched by mobile quarterbacks. With the need up front on the defensive side, two coaches have been hard after Barnett's talents.

"(Tennessee running backs) coach (Robert) Gillespie and (defensive line coach) coach (Steve) Stripling are always talking to me and I've formed a good relationship with them over the process," he said. "They really want me to be a Volunteer and like what they see from my game. They believe and tell us the future of Tennessee football is bright and that once everyone gets healthy along with recruiting they will be back up there in the top rankings of college football."

As a No. 4 seed, Woodland earned a bye in the first round of the 2013 SCHSL Class AA Division II state playoffs. Barnett and his teammates host Kingstree on Friday night.

"I'm going to take my time with the recruiting process and weigh in all my options," Barnett said. "I still have plenty of time left and visits to make. Right now I'm focused in on helping my team do something we've never done before in school history."

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