FSU looms, but Barnett focused on Woodland

Woodland's Michael Barnett has committed to play at Florida State. (Donny Knight/Special to The Post and Courier)

DORCHESTER - It's not uncommon for players at small schools to play on both sides of the ball, so Woodland High School's Michael Barnett does not feel like he does anything special.

Barnett is a two-way starter at Woodland, starting at offensive tackle and defensive end for the Wolverines. The fact that he plays on both sides of the ball is not the story. The way he can dominate a game is the story.

The 6-4, 255-pound Barnett is considered one of the state's top senior prospects and is rated a four-star defensive end by most recruiting services. It's on defense that many feel Barnett will excel at Florida State, where he verbally committed in June.

"It's going to be something special to see how he develops when he only has to work on defense," says Woodland head coach Mathis Burnette. "For us, the kid never stops, never comes off the field. His practice consists of about an hour and a half working with the offense, then the other hour and a half working with the defense. But he never complains. He's all about work, all business."

Barnett was a starting offensive tackle as a freshman and soon added defensive duties. He admits he also looks forward to being only a defensive player but understands that he is needed on both sides of the ball for now.

"I just look at it as preparing me for the next level, helping me get in the best shape I can be in," he says. "I know I will be a lot better once I can focus just on defense but I like being on the field. Whatever my team needs me to do, I am willing to do."

Barnett began to draw national recruiting attention as a junior and made a verbal commitment to Virginia Tech last winter. But after the likes of Alabama and the national champion Seminoles came calling, Barnett realized he may have jumped the gun.

He backed off his commitment and opened up his recruiting again. He attended a camp at FSU in June and committed one day after his return.

"I did it too early with Virginia Tech but I knew once I left Florida State that I wanted to play there," said Barnett. "I wanted to end the recruiting process. All the phone calls, sometimes late at night, it was becoming a headache for me. I know Florida State is where I want to be so I'm glad the whole thing is over."

Barnett admits he never imagined he would become a player that would be recruited by the likes of Alabama and Florida State. He is grateful for the opportunities that football has given him and works every day to make sure he takes care of his business.

"It's a dream come true and I am so blessed to have this opportunity," he says. "Some great schools offered me scholarships and I realize how fortunate I am. I look forward to the future but right now my focus is Woodland."

As for Woodland, the Wolverines have improved in each of Barnett's first three seasons as a starter. Woodland is a legitimate state title contender in class AA this season, and Barnett says a ring is all that's missing.

"I want to do whatever I can to win a state championship," he said. "But this is not about me. This is a team. We are a team and we are going to grind together. I know my role as a leader and I have to do my part, but this season is about our team."