Barnes brings athleticism and depth to defensive tackle spot

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – The departure of senior defensive tackles Jarvis Jenkins and Miguel Chavis and the dismissal of tackle Jamie Cumbie last June have left the Clemson defense in an unfamiliar position – a lack of depth in the middle of the defensive line.

Tavaris Barnes is looking to change all of that.

The redshirt freshman out of First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Fla., arrived on the Clemson campus last fall as a highly-touted, 6-5, 250-pound defensive end prospect who immediately wowed the Clemson coaches with his work ethic and athletic ability.

However, Barnes was stuck behind several more experienced players at the end position, and he was redshirted for the 2010 season. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, however, said that Barnes was the one player who redshirted that didn’t deserve to be – he was simply caught in a numbers game.

And that was something he wasn’t happy with.

"It was hard for me, because ever since seventh grade I'd always started and played," Barnes said.

Now, it’s a different numbers game as Barnes moves inside to defensive tackle to try and provide Steele and the Tigers more depth.

“When you look at the depth of it, you look at [Tyler] Shatley, you look at Brandon [Thompson] and you look at Rennie [Moore], those guys have played,” Steele said after a recent Clemson practice. “Nobody else has. We can’t play with three people. You’ve got to practice like your freshmen aren’t coming.

“If they don’t show up, if Tra [Thomas] and [Josh] Watson aren’t ready yet, [Barnes] has shown that he has a grasp of the defense. He’s extremely powerful. He’s a big enough body that can give you that power in there to command a double-team.”

Barnes has added muscle and weight to his already-powerful frame, and said that he now weighs in at 273 pounds.

“I’ve gained like 23 or 24 pounds,” Barnes said. “I still move pretty fast, and I’m still pretty quick. I played inside in high school. Coach is cool with it. I am also getting reps at end so I can play both. I’ve got a lot to prove, and I feel like I have to come out and prove myself again and do what the coaches tell me to do. I just want to keep working hard.”

Barnes said that his style of play – whether he starts or comes in as a reserve – is predicated on going hard every play.

And that helps as he tries to play the two different positions.

“My style of play is aggressive, hard and fast,” he said. “My motor is going all of the time. I play lights out. Coach Steele says he needs me to be a tackle, even though I am a tweener. When you play at a school like Clemson, it’s almost like you are a professional. It’s a different level. You have to know your stuff, know your plays and just go out there and give it your all every single day, every single practice.”

And if that means he has to play end on one play, chasing the quarterback, and then move inside on the next to play to take on two blockers and free up the linebackers?

"It doesn't matter, as long as I'm on the field helping the team."

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