Barnett Eager to Improve, Lead

The junior safety from Tulsa, Oklahoma, finished the year with three interceptions, but he isn't satisfied with that number. No, there were a few opportunities he wishes he could have gotten back.
"I was around the ball a lot last year, and had I caught a lot of those (passes), who knows what could have happened," explained Barnett. "I think I could have had eight or 10 (interceptions) last year; but it's a learning process, and, leading into this off season, I wanted to improve on catching the ball. That's the main thing I've been improving on: catching the ball."
Last season, Barnett played a key role on the Wildcat defense where he started all 13 games and earned Second Team All-Big 12 honors. He finished his junior campaign registering career highs in tackles (77), tackles for loss (4.0) and passes defended (11), while also breaking up four passes in the Wildcats' shutout win over Texas on Oct. 25, 2014 - a feat that earned him his first career Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week award. 
This year, his responsibilities on the field have only continued to grow. Named a player representative for the 2015 season, along with working on catching the ball and to become a better football player, he is also working to become a better leader.
"He has become more vocal of a leader," said K-State head coach Bill Snyder yesterday afternoon at his weekly spring press conference. "He's played hard; he's practiced hard. That's something you always worry about: somebody taking things for granted once they've established themselves as a starter. (He's in) a position that, right now, is not as competitive as we would like, so he is not being pressed a great deal, yet he still practices hard. He's been a good responsibility guy in terms of doing things right, doing what's expected of him and being in the right place at the right time, and he's played aggressively. I'm pleased to see all that."
But it's not just Snyder who has noticed Barnett's leadership qualities and work ethic - his teammates see it too.
"Dante does a good job of bringing energy to the defense, making sure we're all lined up and is leading really well," said senior cornerback Morgan Burns. "I know, naturally, he doesn't want to speak up or have things to be all about him, but he does a great job. He leads by example, and he knows the defense better than anybody on the field. The whole team really looks to him. He's worked hard on the offseason and really cares about the guys."
Like Barnett, Burns was also a factor in the Wildcats' defensive success last season. He started 12 games and recorded 55 tackles while also tallying seven pass breakups. Along with Barnett and Burns in K-State's backfield, the Wildcats return cornerback Danzel McDaniel who, like Barnett, was a Second Team All-Big 12 recipient. The community-college transfer started all 13 games and finished his junior campaign with 59 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, three passes defended and two forced fumbles. 
A talented bunch with a plethora of experience, this group holds plenty of potential for the upcoming season. 
"I told them right before spring ball that we shouldn't let a receiver catch a pass against us just because we have the experience and the talent," said Barnett. "We have a physical corner (McDaniel) and a speedy corner (Burns), and that's big. Any time you can have a secondary come back - that's the backbone of the defense - we love that."
However, among the talent returning in the Wildcat secondary, no player on the K-State defense is as experienced as Barnett.
Boasting a defensive-best 28 career games at safety, including every game over the last two seasons, Barnett's playing experience is simply unmatched. While the secondary may be the backbone of the defense, next year Barnett will be looked to as the backbone of the secondary. 
And, as he's becoming a better player and leader every day, it's a role he's proven he won't be taking lightly. 
 

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