22 Days To K-State Football: Dante Barnett Player Preview


Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

We’re getting closer folks – can you taste it yet? With just over three weeks until K-State football’s Friday night kick-off against North Dakota State (and the NFL preseason already underway), we turn our attention to #22 Dante Barnett. Barnett, a back up safety in 2012, will be asked to step up in a serious way this season with the turnover K-State experienced in the secondary.

First things first: Barnett has been practicing with the best since high school, as he attended Booker T. Washington in Oklahoma alongside Tyler Lockett (thank goodness “Big Game Bob” Stoops deemed both players unworthy of a scholarship with the Sooners, eh?). He came to Manhattan after turning in 100 tackles and nine interceptions in a senior year that landed him on the Second Team All-State list, which followed a 101-tackle junior season. Barnett was also a phenomenal wide receiver, with 775 receiving yards as a junior to go along with six touchdowns, plus another ten touchdowns his senior year (given that talent at wide receiver, it’s no wonder Booker T. Washington won a state championship with Barnett and Lockett).

Despite his gaudy numbers, Barnett was not highly recruited out of high school and only ranked as a two-star athlete. Of course, kids that put up ridiculous numbers but remain unwanted are the kids that Bill Snyder turns into All Americans, so don’t let the lack of recruiting interest sour you on him. Barnett played in all 13 games last season as a true freshman and finished with 24 tackles to go along with two passes broken up. He was thrown into the fire a bit late in the season when All-American Ty Zimmerman went down with a leg injury, and Barnett was called in to replace him with starts against Baylor and Texas. His first start was a forgettable one, as the drop-off from Ty Zimmerman to everyone else was clearly evident in the lopsided upset to Baylor. However, he rebounded nicely in the big victory over Texas to win the Big 12 Championship.

Barnett put up the most statistically impressive game of the year against Baylor with 14 tackles – partially because Lance Seastrunk gashed the front seven and was in the second level all night long. He was also thrown into a game the Big 12’s best passing team last year in that game. From ESPN last year:

"He (Barnett) deserves better than to be known as the weak link in a leaky defense on a forgettable night in Waco, and it won’t take him long in 2013 to outrun that reputation. He… played better than people realized. Even Bill Snyder conceded that after the game. He wasn’t ready for that kind of role against an offense that constantly tests safeties, but that won’t be the case for long. Don’t be surprised if Barnett emerges as an essential part of the Wildcats defense this season."

In fact, ESPN blogger David Ubben named Barnett to his All-Big 12 Freshman Team at the end of the season, a nod to how important he was as a reserve all season, particularly in helping defeat the Longhorns. He looked good in the Spring Game, starting on the first team and returning his squad’s only interception 26 yards while also adding five solo tackles, an assist, and a tackle for a loss and playing special teams in the game. I don’t want to sugarcoat anything – I wasn’t impressed with Barnett against Baylor. He was deliberately targeted and didn’t show up. But the entire team – both defense and offense – put on a show unbecoming of that squad. And it’s a lot to ask a true freshman to step in and replace the likes of Ty Zimmerman late in the season. He’ll be starting next to Zimmerman this year, and I’m confident he can replace the loss of Jarard Milo in his first full year of starting duty.