Optimistic During Rehab
By Brandon Castel
The photographer's strobe lights flashed all around C.J. Barnett as he took
the field at the Louisiana Superdome back in January.
C. J. Barnett
Photo by Dan Harker
The flashes weren’t specifically for him, but it had to feel
like they were as he ran onto the field for the Sugar Bowl wearing his No. 4 Ohio State jersey.
Barnett felt both familiar and foreign being back in pads
after nearly four months away from the game, and although it was only for show,
he couldn’t help but feel the excitement building inside him over the thought of getting
back on the field.
“My knee’s getting better,” said Barnett, who started the first two
games at strong safety for the Buckeyes last season.
“I think I should be back by the spring time. I hope to be
so I can improve, I’m trying to get better.”
Barnett was originally a cornerback by trade, but that is
not what Miami receiver Leonard Hankerson will remember.
The 6-foot-5 wideout took a bone-jarring blast from Barnett
during Miami’s visit to Columbus last fall, which left him crumpled on the Turf
at Ohio Stadium. The Hurricanes also had a touchdown pass broken by Barnett
during their 36-24 loss to Ohio State.
They were the kinds of plays the Buckeyes were used to from
All-American Kurt Coleman, but few expected them from his fellow
Clayton Northmont product; especially in his second game as a starter.
It was a promising start for the young sophomore who won the
starting job away from Orhian Johnson during fall camp, but it was cut short as
abruptly as it began. Barnett took a helmet to his right knee in the second
half of the game, and just like that, his 2010 season was over before it really
“It was an MCL and PCL tear,” Barnett said after the season.
“Nobody wants that. It’s not something you look forward to,
but you just have to take whatever comes.”
It’s that motto of taking whatever comes his way that has
helped Barnett remain optimistic through one of the toughest experiences of his
“That’s what God dealt me,” he said.
“And you just have to make the best out of it.”
A student ambassador in high school and a representative to
the Student-Athlete Activity Board (SAAB) at Ohio State, Barnett has kept his
sense of humor through the darkness. It comes in handy around the locker room,
and especially in the training room with teammates like Tyler Moeller.
“I’m just tired of hanging around him not doing anything in
rehab,” Moeller said with his recognizable grin.
“I thought he tore an ACL and I felt bad for him, but now I
don’t feel bad at all. He should be back tomorrow, but we’ll see.”
Moeller spent plenty of time with Barnett on the injured
reserve in 2010 after tearing his pectoral muscle at Illinois in week five.
“Hopefully Tyler gets better,” Barnett said, joking back at
the sixth-year senior to be.
“He’s been prolonging this pec tear or something that’s not
that serious that people play with.”
Both Barnett and Moeller are expected to compete for
starting spots again next season, but their injuries opened the door for players
like Orhian Johnson and Christian Bryant to get their first taste of action
“There were opportunities for other people to come in, like
O,” Barnett said of the player who replaced him on the back end of Ohio State’s
“And with other people getting hurt Christian was able to
come in. Anybody going down is another opportunity for another guy, so it’s not
Barnett had to watch from the sideline as Johnson finished
fifth on the team with 50 tackles, along with an interception and two forced
fumbles. It wasn’t a total wash, however, as he feels like he is much better
prepared mentally heading into spring practice.
“I was able to learn more from not having to play,” said
Barnett, who finished with five tackles.
“I was able to sit back and learn the whole defense instead
of just learning my position.”
That should help him in 2011, as he battles Zach Domicone,
Nate Oliver, Jamie Wood and possibly even Christian Bryant, who will be looking
for a position to call his own.
“I’m gonna let him have his time to shine,” Bryant joked.
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