Hog Futures: Jarrod Barnes:

'Extraordinary athlete' can contribute this season, high school coach says

Malham: No athlete from school compares

By: Steve Rogers
Published: Thursday, August 17, 2017
Cabot quarterback Jarrod Barnes runs against the Bentonville West defense on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, during their first round playoff game at the Tiger Athletic Complex in Bentonville.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Cabot quarterback Jarrod Barnes runs against the Bentonville West defense on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, during their first round playoff game at the Tiger Athletic Complex in Bentonville.

CABOT -- In his four decades around Cabot High School football, Mike Malham Jr. says he has not seen anything like Jarrod Barnes.

Malham, who has been Cabot's head football coach since 1981, said Barnes' speed and elusiveness are good enough for him to contribute this season at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where Barnes is going through his first preseason camp.

"Extraordinary athlete. He makes things happen," Malham said. "He has the talent to help out up there this year. I really think so."

Barnes was Cabot's starting quarterback for three seasons, but plans are for him to be a receiver and return kicks for the Razorbacks.

[HOG FUTURES: Stories, photos of all the new members of the Razorback team]

"Returning kicks, you just look for the hole and try to get to it," Barnes said recently. "But receiver, there's a lot for me to take in. The routes, the number of steps, the techniques ... there's a lot to learn.

"It's full speed all the time at this level. You hear people say it, but it's really true ... every practice, every play."

Barnes arrived in Fayetteville on May 28, and is now at 5-11 and 178 pounds after gaining about 14 pounds in the summer offseason program.

Barnes was the first in-state player to commit to the Razorbacks for the 2017 recruiting class, and he never wavered.

"I've wanted to come up here and play ever since I was a little kid," he said. "I was a big fan of Darren McFadden and Joe Adams growing up."

Malham said he had maintained for years that the greatest athlete to come out of Cabot was Steve Burks, his former teammate at Arkansas State University who graduated from Cabot in 1971. Burks was drafted in the fourth round in 1975 by the New England Patriots, with whom he spent three seasons.

At Cabot, Burks was the Arkansas Democrat's Player of the Year in 1970, won the state decathlon title and was drafted by the New York Yankees.

But Barnes, Malham said, is a more impressive athlete.

"I never knew if we would ever have someone better than Steve come through here," Malham said. "But Jarrod was. We've never had a kid like that here."

Malham's Dead-T offense at Cabot is traditionally a ball-control style featuring rushes between the tackles on almost every snap. But when Barnes arrived from junior high school, plans were set in motion to open up the offense -- at least by Cabot standards.

"We were used to those 12-, 13-play drives," Malham said. "But with Jarrod, you knew he had a chance to break it every time he touched the ball. So we opened things up with him, even passing the ball more. We were giving up more points because the offense was scoring so fast with big plays that the defense was spending more time on the field."

To best utilize Barnes, the Panthers used a new spin on the Dead-T.

"We had always ran the offense through the fullback, usually, either with a fake or a run," he said. "With Jarrod, we put the quarterback in a Shotgun and was basically snapping the ball directly to the fullback spot. We ran what we usually did, just with the quarterback as the fullback."

Barnes showed flashes of brilliance as a sophomore, helping lead the Panthers to a 6-4 record before losing to Fayetteville in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs. He broke his thumb midway through the season, forcing him to sit out several games. He returned late in the season, playing at halfback with a cast on his hand.

"He actually completed a pass against Fayetteville in the playoffs throwing with his left hand," Malham said.

As a junior, Barnes was able to play the entire season relatively injury-free, and the Panthers won the 7A-Central Conference title, going 10-0 before losing to Fort Smith Southside in the first round of the playoffs. For the season, Barnes rushed for 1,090 yards and 17 touchdowns on 111 carries.

In his senior season, Barnes rushed for 844 yards and 14 touchdowns and passed for 697 yards and 5 touchdowns, despite missing several games and being slowed for nearly half the season with a high ankle sprain.

He was named to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas Preps first team as an all-purpose player, and he was selected as the All-Arkansas Preps male athlete of the year as a junior.

He won the Class 7A state title in the long jump as a junior, and his performance in the Class 7A basketball championship game that season garnered him legendary status.

Facing heavily favored Bentonville and Malik Monk -- one of the state's most decorated high school basketball players ever -- Barnes helped the Panthers to a 59-49 victory and the school's first state title in boys basketball.

A McDonald's All-American that season, Monk signed with Kentucky and was a consensus All-American and The Associated Press SEC Player of Year in his only season with the Wildcats. In June, he was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 11th pick of the NBA Draft.

But during his final high school game in 2016, Monk struggled against the defensive pressure from Barnes and his teammates.

"Of course, we knew Malik was a great athlete and could take over a game," said Jerry Bridges, Cabot's basketball coach. "But I knew I had an SEC athlete on my team, too."

Monk was 8 of 24 from the field, including 0 of 10 on three-point attempts. Meanwhile, Barnes scored 14 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, when the Panthers outscored the Tigers 26-13 to complete the upset.

"Going in, I didn't think Malik could get past Jarrod with that first step," Bridges said. "Normally that was how he got most of his points.

"And Jarrod ... he's the type of kid that when the lights came on, that was when he really shined. He certainly did that night."

In the early stages of preseason camp, Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema has said he's impressed with Barnes' speed and athletic ability, calling him "very smooth, very conscientious," and going as far to say the Hogs' older receivers should "wake up and smell the coffee" or they could see playing time being swiped by Barnes and the rest of a talented young crop of receivers.

It is yet to be seen if Barnes will work at returning kicks or perhaps move to a flanker or slot receiver position. Malham said with a chuckle that he could be a great defensive back.

Barnes said he only has eyes for one spot on the field.

"I want to be wherever lets us win the most," he said. "That's all I care about."

Sports on 08/17/2017

Barnes at a glance

CLASS Freshman

POSITION Wide receiver

HEIGHT/WEIGHT 5-11, 178 pounds

HOMETOWN Cabot

HIGH SCHOOL Cabot High School

AGE 18 (born Jan. 2, 1999)

NOTEWORTHY First in-state player in the 2017 recruiting class to commit to Arkansas. … Rated the No. 4 prospect in the state by Rivals.com and No. 7 by ESPN.com. … As a senior, rushed for 867 yards and 14 touchdowns, and passed for 697 yards and 5 touchdowns, despite being slowed for nearly half the season with a high ankle sprain. Also returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown. … As a junior, led Cabot’s football team to the 7A/6A-East Conference championship, won the Class 7A state title in the long jump and won the 7A-Central Conference title in the 100 meters. Also scored 14 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter in Cabot’s 59-49 victory over Bentonville in the Class 7A state boys basketball final. … Son of Gretchen Juergens and Jarrod Barnes.

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