Tech’s T.J. Barnes kicking it into gear

Of all the testimonials given to Georgia Tech nose tackle T.J. Barnes’ improvement, perhaps none carries more credence than one from a teammate who has spent much of the past two weeks colliding with him.

“T.J., he used to not be much of a threat to rush the passer,” guard Will Jackson said, “but now he’s getting back there and he’s a lot quicker and a lot more explosive off the ball.”

The wait for Barnes, blessed with an easy laugh, quiet personality and immense size, to measure up to his potential may be over. This much is certain – now heading into his senior season, he can’t wait much longer.

“I think he realizes right now he’s got 12 games he’s guaranteed to play,” strength and conditioning coach John Sisk said.

The hoopla over Barnes began soon after his arrival from Enterprise, Ala. He was a terror on the scout team in his redshirt season. It led coaches and fans to imagine what he could do against actual opponents.

“He’s got the ability to one day be a great player,” former defensive line coach Giff Smith said during Tech’s 2009 spring practice, Barnes’ first. “How quick he gets there will be determined by how hard he continues to work.”

The fervor grew when coach Paul Johnson hired Al Groh as his defensive coordinator following the 2009 season. Barnes, 6-foot-7 with weight that hovered around 340 pounds, seemed an ideal fit to be an anchoring nose tackle in Groh’s 3-4 defense. However, in his first three seasons, Barnes’ most estimable opponents were not Georgia or Virginia Tech, but his stamina and weight. He missed only one game in his first three seasons, but made the starting lineup only three times.

Logan Walls has graduated and Barnes’ backup, Shawn Green, is promising, but has only played four games. Tech, it appears, has no choice but to start Barnes, who has in turn shown teammates and coaches that he is ready to accept the challenge.

“T.J. wants to do very well,” Groh said. “He’s got a very strong want-to.”

In the summer, following the team’s morning strength and conditioning workouts, Barnes voluntarily returned in the afternoon three to four times a week for extra training with Sisk. Barnes used the time for stretching, elliptical machine, core-strength work and kettle-bell exercises. When the team had a week off at the end of the summer term before the start of fall camp, Barnes did two more workouts on his own.

Said Sisk, “I think he took ownership of his work ethic this summer.”

Teammates noticed his work in the morning workouts. Just before the start of fall camp, inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy gave Barnes credit for his conditioning work, for managing his weight and for keeping up with smaller teammates in speed drills.

Barnes “kicked it into gear,” Nealy said. “I can’t honestly say what made him kick it into gear, but I’m just glad that he did.”

Asked that question, Barnes pointed at a finger at Nealy and other teammates.

“You’re just looking to your left and to your right and behind you,” Barnes said. “You’re fighting for those guys.”

Another is Julian Burnett, whose neck injury in the Sun Bowl ended his career.

“You don’t want to let them down, especially since we lost ‘Rambo,’” Barnes said. “He’s still counting on us. Being a senior, you have to be able to push through.”

A superior season from Barnes could shape Tech’s route to an ACC championship as perhaps any player. As a nose tackle, Barnes’ responsibility is to stalemate centers and guards and disrupt offenses. Groh has described the position as being “the pillar or the rock in the middle.”

“There’s nothing better than having somebody who can just stuff the middle every time,” defensive end Izaan Cross said. “Just eliminating that from the game plan is awesome.”

At last check, Barnes’ weight was a manageable 342 pounds and his summer labors appeared to have had the desired effect on his endurance and flexibility. Tech will start the season Sept. 3 against Virginia Tech.

Will Jackson can hardly wait.

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech notes

326 comments Add your comment

Oman Jacket

August 19th, 2012
8:31 am

McPants

August 19th, 2012
8:34 am

We’re gonna need a huge season from Barnes this year. CAG’s success essentially depends on him.

15 days til VPI!

Go Jackets!

fuzzybee78

August 19th, 2012
8:36 am

I like the attitude of this TEAM! TJ we are pulling for you. Lets see it all pay off.
Go Jackets— Cook the Turkey!
oh yea –am I first?

Oman Jacket

August 19th, 2012
8:37 am

If TJ can have a good year 12-2 is not outside the scope of possibility.

I think we’re in for an exciting year – the offense will put up some good points, but if we can get a defense on the field to hold other teams under 19ppg I think we can talk ACC champions and BCS birth.

Go Jackets!

Oman Jacket

August 19th, 2012
8:39 am

OK WnE – please post your anti-tech anti-PJ crap now………

old tech grad

August 19th, 2012
8:44 am

Enter your comments here

old tech grad

August 19th, 2012
8:46 am

I have seen the “light” go on in my own children, it can happen. I hope it has happened for TJ. Could be huge.

AJC: is TJ finally the answer to our DL?

August 19th, 2012
8:47 am

4 yrs on campus

August 19th, 2012
9:21 am

After four years on campus he finally decides it’s time to become a football player. 6′7 340lbs built like tarzan plays like jane. I knew that cpj was horrible at developing qbs but this is a joke. Go ahead and call me a troll or whatever else makes you feel good but none of the name calling will help tech in the area of player development. And before you start making assumptions IM not a uga fan.

wombat

August 19th, 2012
9:30 am

I just think you’re an idiot. And, yes, I realize that you being an idiot doesn’t help the team.

Paddy

August 19th, 2012
9:34 am

4 years………I see nothing wrong with him finally becoming a starter. I am sure the coaches wanted him on the field before now. It is up to the player to get on the field. He is there now so Tech fans should enjoy the moment, TJ sure is!

Go Dawgs

Nick

August 19th, 2012
9:37 am

Cautiously optimistic here. I recall reading similar, overly positive articles last year about other players whose improvement never came to fruition on the field.

Tokyo jacket

August 19th, 2012
10:16 am

Can’t wait to see how this plays out. Barnes may make a huge difference on Tech’s squad this year. Holding on two more 3rd and shorts per game would be worth two more wins at least. I think Oman might be right. GREAT play from Barnes would probably be the most impactful improvement for the entire Tech squad, second is special teams. All things being equal to last year, if NT can become a strength of the D and ST can become a strength, I think 12 wins aren’t unreasonable.

prediction

August 19th, 2012
10:18 am

He will have great games against Presbyterian , Middle Tenn, Maryland and Duke.

Tokyo jacket

August 19th, 2012
10:22 am

@ 4yrs, roughly half of all 5-star players are no longer playing football 4 years after high school graduation. While TJ was a 4-star coming out of high school, he still has one more year to prove his ranking was warranted. Even if he doesn’t, he’s never been arrested or suspended. That’s more than I can say for the 4- and 5-star players being recruited 80 miles northeast of Atlanta.

For what it’s worth, I’m convinced that Mr. Barnes has finally figured things out based on the fact that he’s convinced his opponents on the O-line and several of his coaches. We’ll know a lot more in 15 days.

Island Jacket

August 19th, 2012
10:23 am

I am glad TJ finally started to take this serious. He finally see his size wont help much if he don’t put the work in. The defense can only go far as the DL take them. Looking for better results on Defense this year.

GO JACKETS!!!
THWG…

Jlight

August 19th, 2012
10:25 am

If he plays the way he did in the Clemson game, all will be fine. He was behind their line so much that night that he started receiving mail there.

George Stein

August 19th, 2012
10:31 am

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that he will have the biggest impact on this season. If he forces a double team every play, it frees up the ‘backers to stuff the run. Also, having an interior pass rush threat is ideal. Collapsing the line from the inside would be a game changer.

dry dirt road

August 19th, 2012
10:45 am

Back in early 70’s when I was at Tech, the only guy in Div 1 who was as tall as Barnes was Bubba Smith of Michigan State, and he was the biggest player in the US. He also was a good player b/c of his size. Guys that tall are hard to pass over for shorter qbs. If he is to b the rock in the D line, he has Rock Perdoni as a protege. Rock never had ANY problems with taller O lineman at his 5′11″, and was in the backfield all the time. I heard he did brickwork hauling wheelbarrows of bricks for his dad’s company over summers, pumping clay.

Gorilla Biscuit

August 19th, 2012
10:51 am

Virginia Tech, 35. Georgia Tech, less than that.

Prediction reality

August 19th, 2012
10:51 am

He won’t touch the vt qb once. 2 sacks all season. Bunch of hoopla

dawghater1

August 19th, 2012
10:57 am

tj needs to have a big year, we cant run an effective 3-4 with a 6′ 280 pound nose tackle.

gdog

August 19th, 2012
11:07 am

During his first drive, on second-and-20 from the 29, Tebow failed to hit a wide-open Stephen Hill in the end zone, skipping a pass off the turf which would have ended a Jets touchdown drought of more than 100 plays. Tebow had most of his passing success in the zero-to-10-yard range and did not show patience to wait for things to develop downfield.

gdog

August 19th, 2012
11:08 am

I wonder if hill would have caught the pass

UGA = Yawn

August 19th, 2012
11:26 am

GIVE ME A BREAK

August 19th, 2012
11:50 am

Not sure why some people are slow starters. We’re all different but glad to see him ready to go. Looking for a great season for GT. CPJ seems to have made some very possitive moves since the end of last season. ” LET’S ROLL JACKETS “

Supersize that order, mutt

August 19th, 2012
12:01 pm

@ 4 yrs……you may not be a troll or a dwag, but you’re definitely an idiot. CPJ can’t develop a QB??? TW may not be the kind of QB that YOU think he should be, and he’s certainly not a great passer nor as good overall as Nesbitt, but CPJ developed Nesbitt into a terrific TO QB, and he has developed TW into a SOUND TO QB and an on-the-field leader, regardless of his passing. Neither Nesbitt nor TW got there on their own.

gt4ever

August 19th, 2012
12:03 pm

Well, his first priority should be his degree… Everything else is just icing on the cake… Here is hoping he has a great football season.

1 4 GT

August 19th, 2012
12:05 pm

dry dirt road—-I remember the “Rock” very well. I too toted brick & mortar between my sophomore & junior year of high school. For 2 masons. $.50 per hour. But I was stronger & tougher for the football season and my opponents. Better than the weight room. Coaches edict==weight room or work. Since I had to work, might as well get paid, huh.

1 4 GT

August 19th, 2012
12:12 pm

TJ is really quite easy to figure out. He dominated in high school simply by being huge without expending much effort. For whatever reason, the lights finally came on & he realized he has to work at it now. He WILL have a good, maybe a great season. Someone or something has persuaded him that if he wants a shot at playing beyond this year, he must earn it. GOOD LUCK to him & Godspeed.

gt4ever

August 19th, 2012
12:14 pm

@4 years

It’s really the kids responsibility to make it happen on the field… CPJ puts them in a position that they can be successful, the kid plays according to his gift or talent. Possible that this is another example of 4 star in high school not translating to 4 star D1 football player.. Not dissing the kid, but these are the realities… IMHO.

4 yrs on campus

August 19th, 2012
12:26 pm

@supersize tell me specifically what areas tech qbs have improved in from one year to the next. Nesbitt was a good player but again you can’t point out a specific area of improvement yes in the to offense you don’t need a Payton Manning type qb but there are times when you need to throw. So what changed about tw the entire off season you tech fans said tw is not the guy give the ball to vad lee I make my comment and now all of a sudden he is a sound qb make your mind up. Now I have seen many of your comments on here for once save your juvenile name calling and answer the question I asked. In what specific areas have tech qbs improved from one year to the next?

NYJacket

August 19th, 2012
12:26 pm

Great work TJ. Keep it up. You can be as good as you want to be.

crackbaby

August 19th, 2012
12:42 pm

TJ has his doubters. All the better if he shows them up this year.

I remember all the “fans” complaining about George Godsey before his Senior season. No way he can lead this team and make plays at QB blah blah blah…

Show ‘em all up TJ. Like that he wants to do it not only for himself but Julian Burnett, too. Sounds like the kid has matured.

Mock 1

August 19th, 2012
12:46 pm

He can’t 4 years because there is vey little improvement. Just look at the losses tw had in 2010 to 2011. The same teams. Lost to vt maimi and uga in 2010 and again in 2011. That says it all.

crackbaby

August 19th, 2012
12:47 pm

@ 4 yrs – The simple explanation is that despite all the physical talent in the world, at least 50% of any sport is mental / psychological.

Many of these kids who are physically gifted don’t have the mental maturity or where-with-all to match their physical skills. There just aren’t that many people who are so far to the right of the bell curve in both skill sets.

For some, it takes time, guidance, patience and a lot of hard work. It is not a “joke”…

crackbaby

August 19th, 2012
12:50 pm

@ Mock 1 – Too easy to blame TW for those losses. Go back and watch the games.

Oline and defense are more to blame. Tevin could have played better but there is NO WAY TEch would’ve beat Miami the last two years with those performances by the Oline and D. NFW

crackbaby

August 19th, 2012
12:53 pm

Tech should roll out a new playbook this year. More option pass, shotgun, and passes 10 to 15 yards downfield of the OT position (middle of the field). Almost every D vacates that area to defend the TO.

None of it matters if the O-line can’t set some people on their butts. GOON SQUAD!

dawghater1

August 19th, 2012
12:55 pm

MOCK 1 , you are a da, if he was losing to duke and wf, and mtsu, he would nt be the qb, if we were beating vt, uga, miami every year it wouldnt be with this defense.
do you even know where bobby dodd is?

Supersize that order, mutt

August 19th, 2012
12:55 pm

@ Mock 1 ….. learn the facts, bubba. TW didn’t play the entire game against VT in 2010; he only came in after Nesbitt got injured.

crackbaby

August 19th, 2012
12:55 pm

Back to TJ Barnes. The last really effective NT I can think of was Kevin Battle #98. He was a PLUG!

Blow it up, TJB!

Wal-Mart Retards

August 19th, 2012
12:56 pm

Methinks TJ can bring down Giant Logan better than Attachu. Here’s to the D-line making stops and sacks in Blacksburg! 9/3!

dawghater1

August 19th, 2012
12:59 pm

crackbaby, do you think if we started throwing the ball there , they might adjust there defense?, no they would just stand there and watch us run up and down the field, (execution man no matter what the play or the scheme)

Mock 1

August 19th, 2012
1:02 pm

Wrong crack. It has to do with being unable to play good against tougher competition. He looks great against the inferior opposition. Then when he plays against equal or slightly better teams, he doesn’t deliver. I saw no difference in the tw from 2010 to 2011. Same will go for 2012. It’ll actually be worse cause there will be no stephen hill.

dawghater1

August 19th, 2012
1:02 pm

crackbaby, go get a book about gt and read it man!, jerimiah mcclery was the nose tackle, battleship was defense lineman.

Supersize that order, mutt

August 19th, 2012
1:02 pm

Also, Mock 1, TW’s first start was against Miami in 2010; I’m willing to give any QB the benefit of the doubt starting his first game against a good team mid-season after not having played in all the earlier games. As far as the 2010 UGA game, TW actually had a very good game; the D and special teams let him down.

dawghater1

August 19th, 2012
1:03 pm

you guys piss me off sa bad , i cant spell

Mock 1

August 19th, 2012
1:04 pm

Yeah ok dawg because we all know that qbs never win games. It’s only the other players. Qbs never make good reads or plays to win games. It’s just the other player. And of course ur idiotic post is based entirely on if and buts and we know what those are worth. Bottom line is no improvement at all against the teams he lost to the previous year. That’s called a trend.

Supersize that order, mutt

August 19th, 2012
1:05 pm

@ 4 years…….if you can’t see the steady improvement in Nesbitt over his years at Tech, then you are blind. Could he pass? NO!! Although he did get off a few great bombs to BayBay. But he was a threat to any and every team Tech played by his leadership, iron will, and strength. And that improved each year. That certainly didn’t happen without good coaching

As far as TW, how do you know what improvements may have happened over the off season? He hasn’t played a game yet this year. Between the end of 2010, when he was forced to take over, and 2011, he showed obvious improvement in his ability to lead the team and execute the TO. He’s still nowhere near as good as Nesbitt was, but he has another year to show what he can do. Can he pass? Not with any kind of consistency, but that may have improved also; again, we don’t know that yet. Will he eventually be replaced by Vad Lee? That’s a distinct possibility, but for now he is our starting QB, and he will run the TO better than he did last year. Whether it’s good enough remains to be seen.

Mock 1

August 19th, 2012
1:06 pm

Yeah No S**T super and gt ALSO had a lead in the game in 2010 when he entered. If i remember correctly, it was 21-7 when he came in.