Georgia Tech may have finally found its nose tackle for the Yellow Jackets' new 3-4 defense on Saturday. Mammoth defensive tackle T.J. Barnes finally showed the Tech faithful the skills that made him one of the most highly recruited players in Alabama in 2008.
"Basically I studied film and was always in the film room just studying and studying to try and get everything right. I also feel like I am maturing a lot more and just stepping up overall," Barnes said.
One of the biggest surprises of Barnes performance on Saturday was a few plays when he ran down guys from behind or laterally. Even Barnes knows seeing a man his size move like that catches teams' off guard.
"It surprised a lot of people," Barnes said of his quickness. "I knew I could do it. It is a lot easier to move now that I am lighter and I have been working with the trainers and stuff on improving my stride and that has helped me get a lot faster. My acceleration has gone way up."
In the first quarter subbing in for Logan Walls on a third and three, Barnes singlehandedly tackled North Carolina running back Shaun Draughn on the goal line forcing a short Tar Heel field goal.
"I just dominated on that play. That is the best way to put it. I stepped up when I was called on and I just wanted to make a play," he said.
After being down for a long time trying to find his way as a Yellow Jacket, Barnes has emerged in his third year as a key contributor and his on the field success is building up his confidence. Despite his success on Saturday, Barnes plans to let his work on the field do the lobbying for playing time instead of getting in one of the coaches ears.
"The more plays I make the more confident I get and the butterflies just go out," he said. "I feel like I am making a push. I am letting my play on the field do all the talking rather than going up to coach and asking for playing time. I make plays when I am called upon and do it like that."
Barnes and the Tech defensive line will have a much different challenge this week as they get ready for N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson torched an average Cincinnati defense for 333 yards and three touchdowns on Thursday night in Raleigh. Wilson rolled out and showed good mobility in the pocket against the Bearcats.
"I watched NC State a little bit when I got a chance Thursday and they look really good," he said. "We have to get ready."