While the Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton four-star running back is perfectly content with being committed to Ole Miss, he’s still grateful for the opportunity to take official visits this month and ensure the choice he made in July was the right one.
“I committed so early and I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision with everything, that I wasn’t missing out on anything at other schools,” Barber said.
That’s why the 5-foot-10, 210-pound back took an official visit to UCLA and has trips to Tennessee and Texas lined up. If they’re free and they provide the peace of mind he seeks, why not?
Barber is taking an official visit to Tennessee this weekend and is looking forward to getting to know new coach Butch Jones and his staff.
“I feel pretty good about that visit,” he said. “I definitely like the coaching staff a lot. My mom, she also attended Tennessee, so that’s another big thing.”
After previously saying he’d planned to visit the other UT -- Texas -- this weekend, Barber has rescheduled and set up one big recruiting weekend next week.
The plan right now is to take a two-day trip to Austin, Texas, on Thursday. From there, he’ll head to Oxford for an official visit to Ole Miss.
“I definitely think it’s an important visit just to make sure I’m making the right decision,” he said. “I already had my visit to Tennessee set up when Texas asked me to visit, so they said I could change it to next Thursday.”
The Longhorns got into the mix due entirely to Barber’s relationship with Larry Porter. The new Texas running backs coach recruited him for the past year while at Arizona State.
Barber admits he doesn’t know a whole lot about Texas, other than that it’s historically a college football powerhouse. He doesn’t know much about Mack Brown, either. But he knows Larry Porter.
“He’s what attracted me to Arizona State,” said Barber, who originally chose Ole Miss over ASU. “What makes him good is pretty much how down to earth he is. He keeps it real with you and he’s straight-up about everything.”
Porter is looking for a back who can complement Texas’ young and talented trio of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, and he’s done a good job of selling Barber on his ability to make an impact for the Longhorns.
“He pretty much just says I’m his guy and I can fit into any conference and play with anybody,” Barber said. “He’s telling me the way that I run would fit great with the style of offense they run.”
He got a similar pitch during his official visit last weekend to UCLA. The Bruins have to replace 1,700-yard rusher Johnathan Franklin in 2013.
While they already have a pledge from four-star back Craig Lee, the staff made it clear Barber could play right away.
“I enjoyed myself out there,” he said. “Coach [Jim] Mora was a really good host and showed me around. They said that I was pretty much coming in to try to compete for the starting position. I felt like it was different out there. The culture and the vibe was a lot different than anything out here in the South.”
Barber rushed for 1,713 yards and 22 touchdowns in his senior season at Milton and is confident he can be an every-down back no matter where he ends up. He said he has no issues with moving far away from Georgia if a school outside the SEC is a better fit.
Ole Miss does have verbal commits from three other four-star running backs -- Kailo Moore, Mark Dodson Jr. and Eugene Brazley -- but the class first-year coach Hugh Freeze has put together has made a major impression on Barber.
The Rebels picked up a verbal commitment from No. 1 ranked receiver prospect Laquon Treadwell and could land No. 1 overall prospect Robert Nkemdiche on signing day.
That isn’t lost on Barber. He excited about where the program is heading and knows he’ll be plenty happy if he sticks with his pledge.
But for him, the UCLA trip reaffirmed that these official visits are worthwhile. Once he takes in a few more, he conceded he could face a difficult decision.
“This has definitely been an eye-opener,” he said. “I didn’t really know all this was out here, to be honest.”