Redshirt sophomore TJ Barnes often felt the wrath of the coaches the past two years but at 6’7” and 350+ they also saw his immense potential and drove him to improve.
“I had to mature and I had to look at myself last year, see what I had to do and prepare myself for this year. I had to stay low, lose weight, prepare my hands and get more aggressive, things like that,” TJ said.
Barnes is currently at 336 down from 350+ last year and says he feels great at that weight. Long as he is in the 330 ranges he says he feels like he can do anything.
Defensive line coach Andy McCollum sees the potential in TJ Barnes, “He’s getting better. He’s a pup and puppies turn to dogs. Is he where he needs to be? No, not at all but you can see the progress. You can see it on the practice field. You can see it in his eyes. He’s starting to understand, he’s starting to play at a good pad level, becoming more aggressive. He is a good athlete for a big man. He’s just got to go to practice every day with a plan to get better at something. He can’t waste a day and if he continues to do that he’ll keep growing.”
Coach McCollum was asked that since Barnes is an easy-going guy if he needs to get in his face and “jack him up” every now and then.
“Oh I don’t know he’s about too big to get in his face. Maybe back in my younger days I’d be able to do that. TJ doesn’t need that he wants to be good. Just because he’s quiet doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to whip somebody’s butt. I’ve seen mild mannered guys who will take you in the backyard and beat the fool out of you. Every kid is different. You just go through and have him understand to be as good as he can be today.”
Barnes was 3rd on the team in tackles with 5, including 4 solo against North Carolina and his performance resulted in him being one of 8 players praised by head coach Paul Johnson in his Sunday night teleconference. But there have been times in the past when praise was few and far between. He likes it better now.
“Yes, it is good to have some positive reinforcement right now. It shows me that all my work has paid off. I’m just trying to get better each day.”
Asked how he likes playing nose tackle in the 3-4 as opposed to tackle in the 4-3 TJ had this to say, “It is about the same really, I have fun out there. That is what makes it good for me I have fun. I don’t really notice the difference, I just go out there and try to make plays and help the team win.”
With his size, athleticism and work ethic TJ Barnes is going to be an interesting player to watch for Yellow Jacket fans this year and for the rest of his career at Georgia Tech.