Leaving a legacy: C.J. Barnett
June, 27, 2013
By Austin Ward | ESPN.com
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The final chapter hasn't been written yet for Ohio State's senior class, and a handful of Buckeyes have a chance to author something pretty memorable. This week, we'll be looking at five players with a chance to leave a legacy with the program with one more productive season, what kind of impact they might have this fall and how they might be viewed down the road.
- So far: Nobody will bring more experience to the Ohio State defense this fall than the senior from Dayton, though Barnett could lean on even more game action if he'd simply been able to stay healthy throughout his career. Injuries have also had a noticeable impact on his numbers and, at this point, probably overshadow how productive he has been at full strength. Barnett's size and athleticism have always been appealing to the Buckeyes, who first tabbed him for a starting job in 2010 before a knee injury ended his season after two games. After surgery, he bounced back to reclaim that gig and played the only full slate of his career so far, leading Ohio State in tackles, intercepting a pair of passes and ending the season as the team's most outstanding defensive back. As a junior a year ago, Barnett again flashed his potential and proved invaluable in the secondary -- but a nagging ankle injury kept him out of three games and slowed him for a couple others. The Buckeyes, obviously, could use a healthy Barnett, and it might do wonders for the way he's ultimately remembered.
- Numbers to date: 140 tackles, 13 passes defended, four interceptions and four tackles for a loss
- Record chasing: There aren't really any defensive marks Barnett is capable of chasing down this fall, and the blame can fall squarely on an injured knee and ankle. But he could conceivably wind up starting 38 games for the Buckeyes if he makes it through the fall unscathed, and he could finish among the top hitters of his era behind linebacker Ryan Shazier and safety sidekick Christian Bryant as he goes into the year ranked third among active players in tackles.
- What's next: The center of attention in the secondary will continue to be cornerback Bradley Roby, with any spotlight that spills over likely heading to Bryant. But the fact that Ohio State can follow them up with a three-year starter at safety who has been through all sorts of adversity, knows the entire playbook and brings a huge supply of experience to the table reinforces the incredible depth the defense has in the secondary. The Buckeyes are planning to rely heavily on that talent and veteran savvy to set the tone for the overall unit this fall, with the defensive staff likely to frequently line up in nickel and dime packages that should put Barnett and his buddies in position to make a significant number of plays -- and strongly influence how good the Silver Bullets can be.
- Crystal ball: A couple of stints on the disabled list, albeit one longer than the other, have helped keep Barnett from doing the things that would show up in the record books and throw his name in the conversation among Ohio State's former greats at the position. Another healthy, solid campaign like the one Barnett posted two seasons ago probably won't change that much, but it would definitely be a boost to a team that has national title aspirations. And following up a perfect record in 2012 with a championship is one surefire way to go down in school history.
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteA healthy C.J. Barnett (center) is a difference-maker for Ohio State's defense.