All-American cornerback C.J. Barnett became Ohio State’s sixth verbal commitment for the Class of 2009 and signed his official letter of intent Wednesday at the Greater Western Ohio Conference National Signing Day Ceremony at the Huber Heights Athletic Foundation Center.
Ohio State has caught lightening in a bottle the past several years when it comes to recruiting out of Clayton (Ohio) Northmont High School.
All-American cornerback C.J. Barnett is the latest.
Barnett became Ohio State’s sixth verbal commitment for the Class of 2009 and signed his official letter of intent Wednesday at the Greater Western Ohio Conference National Signing Day Ceremony at the Huber Heights Athletic Foundation Center.
Barnett will join former T-Bolt and senior Kurt Coleman in the Buckeyes secondary next year with talented safety deciding to return to Ohio State for his senior season.
“It is real exciting,” Barnett said. “This is the final (step) in the recruiting process.”
Like Coleman in his senior year at Northmont, Barnett (6-1, 175) is on the national radar as one of the top players in the country. He is rated by ESPN’s Scouts, Inc. as the No. 88 prospect in his class and the No. 10 cornerback.
Barnett was a first team All-Ohio selection his senior season as well as All-Southwest Ohio and All-GWOC with 63 tackles, 13 pass break-ups and an interception as Northmont finished 10-2.
His sophomore and juniors seasons, Barnett combined for 139 tackles and six interceptions and is a two-year captain.
“We’ve had players (from Northmont come in) and do a heck of a job,” Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. “C.J. will be here this spring and it will be a great opportunity for him to come in and learn the system. He’ll have a chance to come in and get some good repetitions.
“He hits a little bit like Kurt Coleman. He does a good job playing the ball and he’s going to hit you and now the rest is up to us to help him move to the next level.”
Barnett was a late addition to the Under All-America game where he joined future Ohio State teammates Duron Carter, Jack Mewhort, Melvin Fellows and Jamal Berry.
“That was a great experience and all those guys are great players,” he said. “It was good for team chemistry. I do see that I need to pick up my game and get to their level and that will happen at the next level.”
While Barnett has natural talent, he has worked on his game just as hard to receive such recognition.
“I have been trying to get smarter and getting to know the game better,” he said. “The coaches have stressed keeping my pad level low and I have been keeping low. I have been working on making better breaks on the ball and just my overall game has been getting better.”
And Coleman has been a willing resource for Barnett taking him under his wing and he will be living with the senior safety once on campus.
“We had a discussion a while ago before I made my decision and he told me that if I came (to Ohio State) he would stay because he wants to show me the ropes,” Barnett said. “He held to his word so I am pretty sure he is going to help me out.”
Barnett said Colman’s advice has extended outside the lines as well.
“He gives me life advice – advice for everything on how to handle things now and how to handle things when I get to college,” he said.
Northmont head coach Lance Schneider sees a lot in common between the two players as well as some differences.
“They play the game the same way,” he said. “They like to stick their noses in there and make the big hits. They also do a great job each week preparing for the opponent and are similar along those lines.
“Kurt was more physical than C.J. at this point but it is hard to get to that level Kurt played the game at,” added Schneider. “But C.J. is a great cover guy and Kurt is playing safety because he is so good at that (position). C.J. is definitely going to be a bona fide corner at the next level.”
Barnett made sure to get his college decision out of the way early so he could focus on the rest of his high school career issuing a verbal commitment February of his junior year and sealing the deal on signing day.
And Barnett felt lucky when he learned Ohio State was offering him a scholarship even though he wasn’t really high on the Buckeyes early in the recruiting process.
“I am blessed to go play for a great program,” said Barnett. “At first I didn’t even like Ohio State, to be honest. My junior year, Ohio State was interested and I got the offer from them and through going up there, going to the games, experiencing the atmosphere and learning about the educational program it was just the school for me.”
But why wasn’t Barnett interested in Ohio State initially?
“I wanted to go where it is warmer but after looking at Ohio State I feel like it was the best choice for me,” he said.”
With a cumulative 4.0 grade point average, Barnett is just as serious about his academics as he is about football.
“Academics and football – I dedicate most my time to all that,” he said. “That might separate me from other players.”
Barnett will enroll at Ohio State for the spring quarter in time to participate in spring football and vying for on of the open positions left behind Malcolm Jenkins, Donald Washington and Shaun Lane.
“I feel I can contribute for (Ohio State) and hopefully I can early,” he said. “I am down to do whatever I can do for the team. I want to play this year and do whatever I can to do it.
“Experience is everything and the more I am out there to get an edge on the guys the better chance I will have playing.”
Barnett said he wants to major in Pre-Law at Ohio State.