by Douglas Adams, USC Sports Information
Growing up playing high school football in the South is part of many people’s lives but only a few get to live out their dream of playing college football in front of 80,000 fans each Saturday in the fall. Red-shirt senior offensive lineman Jeff Barnes is one who is carrying out the dream each week.
Barnes, a native of Fayetteville, Ga., knew right away that he wanted to come to South Carolina because of head coach Lou Holtz and live out his dream to play college football among the greatest college fans.
“My brother came in and told me the day that Coach Holtz got hired at South Carolina,” stated Barnes. “He told me that I should go ahead and commit because of Coach Holtz’s history. There are not many people who can say that they played for him. The day when Coach Holtz came to recruit me was like a dream come true.”
After being recruited by Holtz, Barnes came to Columbia in 1999. Barnes redshirted his freshman year but knew his time would come. He has added depth and talent to the Gamecock offensive line since 2000. During his red-shirt freshman year in 2000, Barnes played in eight games while making one start against Florida.
“Redshirting my freshman year helped me out a lot as I added weight and got stronger,” said Barnes. “It also gave me a chance to learn the offense and adapt to the college game. It’s very intimidating to play in front of 80,000 people so it helped me adapt to the environment that I would be playing in for the next four years. It all worked out after that first year and I was living the dream of a lifetime and playing in front of the Gamecock faithful.”
During the 2001 season, Barnes continued to develop but suffered a shoulder injury in the Kentucky game. After the Kentucky game, he worked harder than before to get back to where he was and beyond. Returning in 2002, he saw action in nine games playing at both guard and tackle. Barnes proved to be very versatile with the ability to play anywhere on the offensive line and help the Gamecocks where needed.
“Missing the final games of the 2001 season was really disappointing,” said Barnes. “I knew I had to keep up to stay with the rest of team and return as soon as I could because I couldn’t afford to get behind and lose ground from where I was before the injury occurred. During that time I missed practices and games, but most of all I missed the reps. I came back and worked hard to get back to where I was in 2001 before the injury.”
In 2001, Barnes lived out his most memorable USC football moment in the state where had lived his whole life.
“The South Carolina-Georgia rivalry is not as well not known as the USC-Clemson rivalry but it is a big border war,” said Barnes. “Seeing Brian Scott catch that pass in 2001 in the end zone to give us the 14-9 win in Athens is something I will never forget. Every time I go home, people say how are not going to beat them but that game was very special for me since I am from Georgia and it was the second straight year that we beat them.”