FAYETTEVILLE — Michael Smith laughed at the reporter desperately seeking his help.
The Arkansas Razorbacks receivers coach knows he’d better get used to it. For if Razorbacks freshman receiver Jarrod Barnes of Cabot proves as good as Smith thinks Barnes will be, media from all over will besiege Smith for his assistance.
Interviewing Barnes appears to parallel interviewing a POW determined to offer nothing beyond name, rank and serial number.
So please, Coach, give me something to pad this feature because Jarrod didn’t give me much.
“Did you try pulling teeth?” Smith asked, chuckling. “You ain’t getting it from him, brother. He ain’t saying anything. He doesn’t say it at practice, meetings. He is quiet. Really quiet.”
Barnes must have been among the quietest signal-callers ever quarterbacking while completing 39 of 49 passes for 689 yards and four touchdowns against two interceptions and as a 5-11, 172 guard directing Cabot’s basketball team to the 2016 Class 7A State Championship over Bentonville.
If you wonder why Barnes catches and runs with the football instead of throwing it as a Razorback, consider he totaled nearly 2,000 yards rushing for his junior and senior seasons at Cabot and popped an 85-yard kickoff return and on defense returned an interception for a 47-yard touchdown.
Only 5-11, 172 is just too small for a SEC running back.
But Barnes showed during the summer preseason practices, like Coach Bret Bielema and his staff thought he would when they recruited him, that he’s sufficiently fast, sure-handed and elusive to be considered for varsity receiver duty from the Aug. 31 season-opener against Florida A&M in Little Rock through the entire season.
“He’s going to be a good player,” Smith said. “He’s a kid with a lot of talent. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t have that type of talent.”
The question is whether that talent is so needed to play right away or would be better served apprenticing with a redshirt year to learn his new position and add some meat to that 172-pound frame.
“He’s got to get comfortable not only with the physicality of playing at this level but understanding it’s OK not for him to be the greatest athlete on the field,” Smith said. “And things aren’t always going to go his way. But I’m impressed by the way the young guy has come here and approached it.”
Bielema also seems impressed.
“Jarrod is very smooth and very conscientious,” Bielema said.
Barnes stands ready to do whatever he’s asked.
“I’m just here to try to prove myself,” Barnes said. “If they think I can play, I’ll play. I want to play but it’s not my decision.”
The important decision for him was Arkansas deciding it wanted him because he had long decided he wanted Arkansas.
“When they offered I committed just a couple of days after,” Barnes said. “This is where I’ve always wanted to come since I was little. This is the only visit that I came on. I grew up an Arkansas fan.”
How does he think it’s gone through the first scrimmage?
“It’s gone good, I would say,” Barnes replied. “You just have to learn to adapt to the college life. I think we’re doing pretty good. Once we learn the plays and stuff it gets better. I’m fitting into the offense better than I thought I would.”
While a finance major who took UA summer school courses, Barnes’ summer football curriculum includes Basic Blocking 101.
“I played quarterback in high school so this the first I’ve ever blocked,” Barnes said. “But they teach you how to block. So if you just listen to them, you’ll be OK.”
What’s been the biggest adjustment?
“Learning the plays because it’s a lot more difficult,” Barnes said. “It’s way more difficult than high school.You’ve got to come ready to work every day because if you don’t, you can lose your sot just like that. That’s way different than high school. High school you didn’t have to work that hard. Now you’ve got to work every play.”
Barnes already has shown that he’s ready to work and whether starting this year or next, potentially ready to play.
“He definitely is going to be a player for us,” Smith said.