OL Khalif Barnes - a name to watch

Washington had four brand new starters in the offensive trenches in 2001. One of them was a redshirt freshman that had played a grand total of 15 practices on that side of the ball when fall camp began. You want green? Take a look no further than the weak tackle position, perhaps the toughest and most important of the entire front line.

Standing 6-5 and weighing a svelte 295 pounds, Khalif Barnes was thrown into the fire so quickly, he bypassed the proverbial frying pan altogether. He was athletic, smart, and after junior college transfer Francisco Tipoti was unable to matriculate to Washington in the fall, he was named the starter at the weak tackle position by the end of two-a-day practices. It was an amazing baptism into the Pac-10 for the Spring Valley, California native.

His first test was no big deal: the mighty Michigan Wolverines. They of the cool helmets, Bo Schembechler, Hail To The Victors . . . yes, that Michigan. It may be something that young football players dream about, but usually it's after they've at least had the opportunity to learn more than 50% of their playbook and actually take some live snaps.

Not Barnes. He would have no such luxury.

He took just about every snap at the crucial weak tackle position and while he did suffer some growing pains, he also served notice that he would be a fixture on the Husky line for years to come. It seems like eons between the home opener on September 9th against Michigan when Barnes was making his first career start, and the season finale in the Orange Bowl against Miami.

"Going in to Michigan I felt very young. I felt a little immature because I was still learning the offense. I wasn't scared of playing against Michigan but I WAS scared of messing up. I was extremely self-conscious about messing up in front of all of those people. Now I'm a bit more mature and have more confidence. Once you get confident you are a better player, no matter what position you play," said Barnes.

Not only is he a bit older and wiser, he now knows how important it is to win at home.

"It feels really good, man. Anytime you can go undefeated at home it's pretty good. The one thing we need to address is that on away games we start out slow. On our two losses we started from so far behind. We couldn't regain our confidence and get it going in time."

Barnes' redshirt freshman season was one for the books. He will remember it fondly.

"Coming in my first year on offense, it feels very good to have run the table at home. It does surprise me to be starting, to be honest. I give a lot of credit to Coach Myers and Gilby. Anytime you can take a player and convert him to an entirely new position, and have the confidence in him to put him as a starter, it's amazing. I ask myself all the time how I did it," said Barnes of his move from defensive tackle.

Barnes' story thus far will remind some of former Husky Bob Sapp, a defensive lineman that was converted to offensive tackle and went on to have a stellar career.

"The position is very hard. I talk to Elliot Silvers all the time," said Barnes. "He's in the NFL now and he started at this position for three seasons. The Defensive Ends in our conference are very fast, it's a big challenge."

"I love challenges."

The future does look bright for the Husky offensive line given the youth of the group. Barnes smiles when he thinks of the next few years. "Everyone except for Kyle (Benn) comes back next year and we're going to have a good guy by the name of Dan Dicks come in and take over his spot. Dan will do a great job for us. Me, Elliott (Zajac), and Todd (Bachert) should know how to play well together. We know what everyone is doing and where everyone is going. That experience means a lot because once you get to know each other you get into a rhythm. That is when you get confident and can get some things done."

Another young horse that Barnes is excited to play with the next three seasons is true freshman Robin Meadow, a 6-5 300-pound giant who should figure in the two-deeps next season as well. "He's going to be a really good player. He's really strong and has a nice upper body. He impressed me a lot when he first came to camp. He has the strength to really lock onto people. He's a freshman with a nice attitude and he's come in and play hard. He's going to be a really good player by the time he leaves here, he's going to play a lot," said Barnes.

Meadow could play both guard and tackle. Also returning at tackle are Andre Reeves, a 6-5 315-pounder with great potential, and Ryan Brooks, a 6-6 300-pound redshirt freshman that is raw but talented. Francisco Tipoti will enter the UW football program this spring as well.

Todd Bachert could stay at strong tackle, where he started all season in 2001, but has the flexibility to move inside to play either guard or center. He'll be a junior with 12 starts (including the Holiday Bowl) under his belt in 2002. Nick Newton and Elliott Zajac combine with Aaron Butler to give the Huskies a lot of game experience at the interior line positions.

"We could be very good next year," said Barnes. "We expect to be good. I can't wait."
Possible 2002 Offensive Line Rotation:

WT Khalif Barnes 6-5 298 sophomore (11 starts)
WT Francisco Tipoti 6-4 305 junior (JC Transfer)
WG Elliott Zajac 6-3 315 senior (9 starts)
WG Aaron Butler 6-2 325 sophomore (2 starts)
C Todd Bachert 6-4 305 junior (11 starts)
C Dan Dicks 6-5 325 sophomore
SG Nick Newton 6-5 310 junior (11 starts)
SG Robin Meadow 6-5 300 RS-freshman
ST Francisco Tipoti 6-4 305 junior (JC Transfer)
ST Andre Reeves 6-5 315 RS-freshman

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