Departing junior defensive end Derek Barnett held a conference call with reporters on Tuesday evening to discuss his decision to forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
There was an interesting account brought up by WNML’s Jimmy Hyams – as told to him recently by Rashaan Gaulden – that Barnett actually disappeared for a couple days during his freshman season after the initial depth chart came out.
Barnett was listed as fifth string at defensive end as he got his career underway in Knoxville. The player who turned out to be one of the most accomplished and competitive players the Vols have ever produced had to take some time away to even process that.
“I don’t know exactly where I went,” Barnett said with a laugh on Tuesday evening. “I just went to go re-evaluate some things. I was obviously upset because I’m competitive, but after that I just told myself to put my head down and work hard and when I get that No. 1 spot, don’t let down. It motivated me to work even harder.”
Thirty-three career sacks and a UT record later, Barnett, a projected first-round pick in the upcoming draft, certainly overcame that initial setback. It didn’t take long either. Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said via conference call on Tuesday that he quickly saw Barnett’s upside as a freshman
“Very, very early – I still remember the early stages of training camp his freshman year,” Jones said. “I still have the video saved, and I actually use it for my clinics – it was a ball on the opposite side of the field, and he took the proper pursuit angle and outran the entire defense and offense to get to the football, and just the way he played the game with relentless effort. We knew we had something there that was going to make for something very, very special.”
“It’s a funny story looking back,” Barnett added, speaking about his quick hiatus in 2014. Quarterbacks around the nation probably wish he would’ve stayed away.