June 7, 2012

Barnett focused on getting better

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Follow Noon | Givler | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Defensive back C.J. Barnett has now had as many college head football coaches as he has had years on the field with the Buckeyes. The 6-foot-1, 202 pounder has seen a little bit of everything during his time in the Scarlet and Gray.

Challenges are not something new to Barnett however, an ACL injury wiped out all but the first two games of the 2010 season after a freshman campaign looked like it was going to springboard Barnett to a big sophomore season.

Barnett came back for a big 2011 season and played in all 13 games for the Buckeyes and racked up 75 tackles (49 solo, 26 assisted) and a pair of interceptions (Miami and Michigan State) as well as six pass breakups.

Now the team is ready to put the 2011 season behind them and move forward with head coach Urban Meyer and a vastly different coaching staff (including a new position coach for Barnett with Everett Withers taking over with the safeties).

There has been plenty of curiosity around the world of college football about how Meyer will step into the Ohio State program and while the players knew 'of' Meyer before they met with him for the first time, they weren't really sure what to expect.

"Going in I really didn't have any expectations and I didn't really know about him, I mean I knew about him, but I really didn't know what to expect," Barnett said. "Especially coming off of coach (Jim) Tressel and coach (Luke) Fickell, it was a little more laid back atmosphere (with them). With him he definitely got our attention right off the bat and it has been great ever since. Highly intense and very motivating."

The players will not reconvene as a group until June 18th when they are able to start working out in summer conditioning events. The coaching staff will not be able to work the team until fall camp starts but even with the limited structure during the 'unsupervised' time, Barnett has noticed that he and his teammates have been putting in the work to get better.

"It has been crazy, guys are in here working on their craft non-stop," Barnett added. "In past years guys would take a lot of time off and I guess just go be college students but I think they figured out that being a college student is great but playing football is better (laugh). Guys are taking it a lot more serious than they ever have been."

Barnett would not single out any one or two players that have made the biggest gains during the off-season and rather focused on how the whole team has looked and performed during their first couple of months under Meyer and the new staff.

"I don't have any specific (players) but I know as a group that everybody just got a lot better," Barnett said. "A lot of guys got a lot more hungry and worked a lot harder. I think there was a refueling of the fire I guess on our team where everybody works hard and not just a certain amount of people or just the top people."

People are expecting players like John Simon and Zach Boren to become the leaders of the team but those roles are not just limited to a handful of the senior starters.

"Whoever steps up, it doesn't really matter your position on the team, anybody can lead," Barnett said. "Lead by example or lead by word, however you choose to lead, everybody can be a leader on this team."

Meyer met individually with each member of the team to give them feedback, both positive and negative, for areas to focus on and to continue working on. The redshirt junior-to-be felt that he received some very valuable information in his review with his head coach and will continue to strive to better himself on the field.

"He is going to keep it real with you and he has kept it real told us we all need work to improve and the only way you can improve is to work at it so (we all) are taking that advice," Barnett said.

And while the team knows that it cannot compete for a National or Big Ten title this year, there is still plenty to play for and for guys that have more than one year left in the program that there is still a chance for a ring before their days in Columbus come to an end.

I knew he was a winner and that really matters to me. He has two championships and you can't argue with that and I want to be a part of that and I want to win a championship so hopefully I can my senior year.


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