CLEMSON FOOTBALL

Khalil Barnes looks to put together a strong encore from a freshman All-America campaign.
Khalil Barnes looks to put together a strong encore from a freshman All-America campaign.

Clemson defender Khalil Barnes named among nation's most underrated players


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247Sports identified some of the nation's most underrated players going into the 2024 college football season, and that list featured a rising star sophomore safety from the Tigers.

Khalil Barnes was the pick from Clemson's highly-touted defense.

"Khalil Barnes earned Freshman All-American honors last season, but could soon become a household name around the ACC. The Clemson safety is the first player in the Dabo Swinney era to record multiple forced fumbles and snag multiple interceptions as a freshman," 247Sports' Cody Nagel said. "Barnes finished with three each during the 2023 campaign while making 38 total tackles, including five for loss with a sack. He rated as a high three-star prospect coming out of high school, which made his instant impact somewhat of a surprise. However, Barnes' disruptive style of play will be expected in 2024 as he tries to help Clemson get back on top in the ACC."

Barnes was joined on the list by a pair of ACC players not on Clemson's scheduled slate with UNC edge rusher Kaimon Rucker and Cal running back Jadyn Ott.

Barnes Clemson bio

2023 Freshman All-American who became the first Clemson player in the Dabo Swinney era to record multiple forced fumbles and multiple interceptions in a freshman season … enters 2024 credited with 41 tackles (5.0 for loss), six pass breakups, a team-high three interceptions, three forced fumbles, a sack and a fumble recovery (which he returned 42 yards for a touchdown) in 499 snaps over 13 games (seven starts) … was one of three players in the country (and the only freshman) with at least three interceptions, three or more forced fumbles and one sack in 2023.

2023: Named as a First-Team Freshman All-American by 247Sports, the FWAA and On3 … PFF All-Freshman Team selection … second-team Freshman All-American per The Athletic and College Football News … first-team All-ACC pick by PFF in the flex category … third-team All-ACC selection by Phil Steele and College Football Network … became the first Clemson player in the Dabo Swinney era to record multiple forced fumbles and multiple interceptions in a freshman season … was one of three players in the country (and the only freshman) with at least three interceptions, three or more forced fumbles and one sack in 2023 … was the first Clemson freshman to record three or more interceptions in a season since safety Jayron Kearse in 2013 (four) … was the first Clemson defensive back with multiple forced fumbles, multiple interceptions and at least one sack in a season since Bashaud Breeland in 2013 … credited with 41 tackles (5.0 for loss), six pass breakups, a team-high three interceptions, three forced fumbles, a sack and a fumble recovery (which he returned 42 yards for a touchdown) in 499 snaps over 13 games (seven starts) … joined Myles Murphy (three in 2020) as the only Clemson freshmen under Dabo Swinney to force three fumbles in a season; Barnes joined Murphy and Ed McDaniel as the third Clemson freshmen (true or redshirt) with three forced fumbles in a season since 1988 … was one of only two FBS players — and was the only FBS freshman — to record three or more interceptions, three or more forced fumbles and a scoop-and-score (BYU junior Eddie Heckard) … became the first Clemson freshman to lead the team in interceptions outright since Justin Miller in 2002 … made collegiate debut at Duke … one of six Clemson true freshmen to appear in all 13 games (Jamal Anderson, Tyler Brown, Shelton Lewis, T.J. Parker and Avieon Terrell) … recorded one tackle vs. Charleston Southern … shared defensive player of the game honors after notching five tackles (one for loss), two pass breakups, a forced fumble and his first career interception vs. Florida Atlantic, marking the earliest in a career (three games) a Clemson player recorded an interception since freshmen Jonathan Meeks and Rashard Hall each recorded an interception in the third game of the 2009 season against Boston College … compiled three tackles at Syracuse … notched four tackles and his second forced fumble of the season vs. Wake Forest, joining Myles Murphy (three in 2020) and Stephone Anthony (two in 2011) — both of whom were first-round NFL Draft picks — as the only Clemson players in Dabo Swinney’s tenure to force multiple fumbles in their freshman seasons … posted three tackles (one for loss) at NC State … added another three tackles and a pass breakup vs. No. 12 Notre Dame … credited with six tackles (2.0 for loss) and his second interception of the season vs. Georgia Tech … accrued three tackles, a pass breakup and his first career sack vs. No. 20 North Carolina … named Thorpe Award National Defensive Back of the Week and ACC Defensive Back of the Week for his performance at South Carolina when he posted six tackles, two pass breakups, a 42-yard fumble return touchdown and an interception … recorded the fumble return and the interception on back-to-back offensive plays by South Carolina on the Gamecocks’ second and third plays of the game, becoming the first Clemson player to record a takeaway on consecutive plays from scrimmage since Brian Dawkins against Duke in 1995 … accrued seven tackles and a forced fumble in the Gator Bowl vs. Kentucky.

Before Clemson: Helped North Oconee to a 13-1 record and a spot in the state semifinals in 2022 … team won its first 13 games of the year and helped coach Tyler Aurandt earn 4A Coach of the Year honors … earned Region 8-4A Player of the Year, as voted by the state’s coaches, in both 2021 and 2022 … 2021 all-state selection … played on both sides of the ball, seeing action at receiver and defensive back … in 2022, scored 18 total touchdowns, scoring on offense, defense and special teams … recorded 35 rushes for 442 yards (12.6 avg.) including a long run of 93 yards and seven rushing touchdowns … recorded 53 receptions for 879 yards (16.6 avg.) with eight touchdown receptions … registered 44 tackles, three tackles for loss, eight interceptions, seven pass breakups and a forced fumble defensively in 2022 … scored twice on defense … posted 13 kick returns for 231 yards, including a 57-yard punt return for a score … had a superlative all-purpose performance against Cedar Shoals in 2022 when he caught eight passes for 142 yards with two touchdowns at receiver in addition to recording a rushing touchdown and a pick-six, giving him four total touchdowns in that game … listed as No. 20 athlete in the country by Rivals, which also listed him as the No. 42 overall player in Georgia … On3 ranked him as No. 14 athlete and 53rd-best player in Georgia.

Personal: Born Feb. 28, 2005 … committed to Clemson on Dec. 16, 2022 … originally committed to Wake Forest … later narrowed college decisions to Clemson, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, the first two of which recruited him as a defensive player and the latter of which pursued him as a receiver … enrolled at Clemson in January 2023 … communication major … first name pronounced “CUH-leel.”

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