By Jimmy Hyams
Tennessee defensive back Rashaan Gaulden recalled the time he was a freshman and coach Butch Jones released his first depth chart.
Defensive end Derek Barnett was fifth team.
“I didn’t see him for two days,’’ said Gaulden, Barnett’s roommate.
Where was Barnett?
“Locked up in his room, I guess,’’ Gaulden said.
Barnett laughed when he recalled the story.
“Obviously I was upset,’’ Barnett said. “It motivated me.’’
Three years and a school-record 33 sacks later, Barnett is going pro. The junior from Nashville made the announcement four days after leading Tennessee to a 38-24 victory over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl.
Barnett is projected as a first- or second-round draft pick, depending on the team and the NFL draft analyst. Those that rate him lower are concerned about his size – 6-foot-3, 270 pounds.
Barnett isn’t. He said he could play inside or outside or in pass coverage.
“I think I have the skills to play anywhere on the field,’’ said the first-team All-American.
Barnett said he knew late in the season he would turn pro but didn’t want to say anything because it could have been a distraction.
Barnett said he has yet to hire an agent and isn’t sure where he will train.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones said he knew three years ago Barnett had the potential to be a high-round draft choice.
“It was very, very early in training camp,’’ Jones said.
Barnett hustled across the field to chase down a ball carrier. It’s a clip Jones said he still uses at clinics.
“I knew we had something very special,’’ Jones said.
Barnett became the first SEC player to record at least 10 sacks in three seasons. He had 10 as a freshman and sophomore and 13 as a junior.
Meanwhile, Jones said he doesn’t have a timetable to replace offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who accepted a similar position at Indiana.
Jones said he might hire an internal candidate. The most likely would be special teams/tights ends coach Larry Scott, if Jones stays in house.
Jones said he wants someone with recruiting experience, but did not rule out hiring someone from the NFL ranks. He said he is talking to college and pro coaches.
“We need a great developer of quarterbacks,’’ Jones said.
DeBord worked primarily with the offensive line while quality control coach Nick Sheridan worked mostly with the quarterbacks.
“I think it’s gonna be an exciting time,’’ Jones said of his search, but he added he does not anticipate any “monumental changes’’ with the offense.
Jones said he wants a good play-caller and someone who can manage a staff and manage meetings and personalities.
Jones said “change is good’’ and he’s looking forward to getting a “fresh set of eyes, new ideas and new energy.’’
Jones said he did not feel he had to hire an offensive coordinator before signing day.
Jones also said he is close to hiring a strength and conditioning coach.
The leading candidate is Rock Gullickson of the Los Angeles Rams.
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