Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Georgia Tech wasn't exactly high on linebacker Anthony "A.T." Barnes' list of college choices, despite the fact he grew up about 45 minutes from the campus in Cartersville, Ga.
Actually, the 6-foot-3, 231-pound Barnes wanted to go to Duke. To play basketball.
"I love basketball," he said. "My passion is basketball. I love Duke. I wanted to go to Duke, just because of their basketball atmosphere."
His scholarship offers, though, came from football, so that's what he focused on.
"Georgia Tech just fell in my lap because I had good grades and it was close to home," he said. "It was something good for me and my family."
Turned out to work pretty well for Georgia Tech, too.
Barnes, a redshirt sophomore, has spent much of the spring in the staff's new "wolf" position, which requires the outside linebacker to drop back a little more in coverage. It's designed to help take some pressure off the new defensive linemen because the guys up front won't have to worry about the outside as much and can attack more.
"This year instead of having a player come in on third down and long situations, they want to have the same guy who's in there stay in, but can also stop the run and cover the receivers," Barnes said. "It's like a nickel package. That's going to be our base defense. It's pretty good. It gets me free to roam around, do a little disguising and stuff like that."
As a part-time starter in 2007, Barnes made 29 tackles (20 solo). Barnes is looking for an increased role after he had a string of tough luck in 2008. He was injured in the first and last game of the season, and finished with 16 tackles for the season. He started in the season opener but missed the next two games with a shoulder injury, and then broke his fibula in the season finale at Georgia. He's had trouble making quick cuts and tackling this spring, but said he'll be 100 percent this summer.
"I've been through the struggles," he said. "I've been here through the good and the bad. There's nothing that can happen in my last two years I haven't seen or been through already."