ATLANTA -- Last season was the first time Zach Barnes (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) had played football at the varsity level. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect was part of a team that fielded double-digit FBS prospects and won its first AAAAA state championship in football. But unlike some of the other heralded recruits, Barnes did not see his recruitment take off early.
"The recruiting process was a lot different for me, because I did not have a lot of offers," Barnes said. "There are a bunch of D-1 commits here, so it is hard to get on the field sometimes. But I knew if I just keep working hard everyday, good things will happen. But I went to a few camps this summer and showed out, and it just turned up for me."
One school that Barnes, whose father played in the NFL for the Chargers and Falcons, was able to camp at during the summer was Tennessee. The under-the-radar prospect impressed the Vols' coaching staff, and he earned a return invite for the next camp. After once again showing out, Tennessee extended an offer at outside linebacker, to which Barnes almost immediately accepted.
"The Tennessee camp was a great experience," Barnes said. "I really liked it up there. The staff is awesome, and they really have a drive to develop good football players and win games."
Barnes made a third visit to Knoxville with his family a month later, and after spending more time on campus feels he has found a familiar connection at Tennessee.
"They are a really close community,"" Barnes said. "Every time I go up there, they are welcoming and having fun. But they also play hard, so instead of feeling like a big college where everyone is always watching you, it feels like Grayson here at home."
Barnes said schools like Georgia Tech and Southern Miss are still showing interest.
"I do plan on taking official visits, but I am not too sure which ones yet," Barnes said.
On Saturday, Barnes came on in the second half versus McEachern, making two tackles and a sack in helping the Rams to a 31-12 victory.
"I think I played OK, and I came off the ball well, but as always there are a few things I need to fix, and I plan to do better next time," Barnes said.