The 90 Illini #41: Tarique Barnes
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I realized something. With the announcement yesterday that Chinedu Udeogu is leaving the team (before he even joined the team), I don't have 41 more players to cover. There's only 40 left. I guess the only way to do this is to skip the number 13 like hotel elevators. Or maybe we'll add some transfer in October and he'll gain immediate eligibility (not gonna happen - the semester started six weeks ago).
41. Tarique Barnes
Uniform number: 44
Year in school: True Sophomore (4 years to play 3, technically 5 years to play 4 with the Covid rule)
Height: 6'-1" -- Weight: 230 lbs.
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
High School: Cordova HS
Five best offers: Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Kansas, Navy
Tom Cruise rating: 1.5 Cruises
2019 statistics: Played in all 13 games as a true freshman, mostly on special teams; 13 tackles including one forced fumble.
Perhaps the biggest surprise last season: two freshman linebackers arrived - Shammond Cooper redshirted, Tarique Barnes didn't. Cooper was the four-star, so Cooper was the one everyone was expecting to play, but Cooper only got four games before taking a redshirt and Barnes played in all 13 games.
The main reason for that: size. Barnes came in around 225 lbs; Cooper was right around 200. Shammond needed to add some bulk, thus the redshirt. Cooper is now listed at 220 and Barnes at 230.
But it's still notable that Barnes was one of four scholarship freshmen to not redshirt last season (along with Casey Washington, Devon Witherspoon, and Dalevon Campbell). I believe he was on kickoff coverage the entire year, and that usually points to lots of snaps later on.
The top six linebackers are set in stone. The only question is the order and who plays where. Lovie has generally had a "learn some things at Will, eventually slide inside to Mike" the last four years (Del'Shawn Phillips, Dele Harding, Jake Hansen), so it will be interesting to watch how that works with Cooper and Barnes. Will and Mike are fairly interchangeable in this defense (meaning it's easy to learn both spots), so I could see a scenario where Cooper was Will and Barnes was Mike last year but this year they learn the other positions (as backups).
It's also somewhat simple to project how this goes in the future. The Covid rule will complicate things (will Hansen and Eifler leave after this season or will they return in 2021?), but here's generally how it goes:
- This season it's Hansen and Eifler (seniors) and Tolson (JR). Fourth man is Delano Ware (JR).
- After Hansen and Eifler leave, there's a year where it's Tolson and Ware's show with one of Cooper or Barnes taking the third spot.
- Tolson or Ware probably take advantage of the Covid rule and add a season, so there's at least one year where it's something like a Ware-Cooper-Barnes linebacking corps.
- And then as Cooper and Barnes approach their senior seasons some linebacker from the 2021 or 2022 class will join them in the lineup.
It's hard to say which years those will be because of the Covid rule. Barnes is a true sophomore this season and he'll return in 2021 as... a true sophomore. So he could technically still take a redshirt year later on and be here until 2025.
For now, he's in the linebacker two deep, he's probably learning all three positions, and he's going to play on special teams. Then, depending on what Hansen and Eifler do after this season, he might be needed in the starting lineup as soon as next year.