When D'Iberville safety Tyler Barnes arrives for the hit, the ball carrier is going to feel it.
That nasty streak in the secondary helped grab the attention of the Southern Miss staff prior to his senior campaign, earning Barnes a scholarship offer in July.
It didn't take long for Barnes to decide that USM was the place for him after receiving the offer from tight ends coach Desmond Lindsey during a phone call.
“Not even an hour,” Barnes said. “I talked to my mom about it. I was just really excited. It was a dream school of mine as a kid. There wasn't much thought about it.”
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Barnes shut down his recruitment not long after his senior season came to a close, a good sign that he will follow through with his commitment and sign with the Golden Eagles on Feb. 1.
Barnes believes his decision to commit early was the right call.
“Me committing early, I knew I had what I was striving for,” Barnes said. “I knew I could focus on school and I didn't have the pressure to find a college. I fit in with their scheme. I was able to focus on helping my (high school) team get a ring. All the pressure was gone.”
The versatile defensive back made a strong case to be considered the best defensive player in South Mississippi during the 2016 season, racking up 136 tackles and four interceptions to help lead the Warriors to an 8-4 record and a Region 4-6A title.
At 5-foot-11, 188 pounds, Barnes was largely overlooked by some of the top programs in region. He received plenty of attention from the state's top junior college programs and Jackson State, but USM was his lone FBS offer.
Barnes, who attended USM games as a kid, watched the Golden Eagles closely this season and feels like he's found the perfect fit in Hattiesburg.
“I watched every game this season,” Barnes said. “I feel like my hard work and dedication fits into their scheme. I like what they're doing. I feel like it fits me.”
Barnes sees a lot of himself in one current member of the Southern Miss secondary.
“Every game, I compare myself to (nickelback) Picasso Nelson,” Barnes said. “He has that dog in him. He reminds me of myself. He's not the biggest, but he's not afraid to get his hands on you. I love all that. He fits my style of play.”
Nelson, who just finished his junior season, has been a versatile member of the Southern Miss secondary since signing out of Oak Grove High School, playing both safety and nickelback.
Barnes believes he can also play safety or nickel at USM.
“I feel like I can do both of them do really well, but I'll probably be the nickel,” he said.
Barnes fits the mold of player that has made USM a consistent winning program over the last 25 years. USM head coach Jay Hopson, a former college safety himself, wants to make a habit of pursuing overlooked talent like Barnes.
“That's my guy,” Barnes said of Hopson. “He reminds me of (D'Iberville coach Eric Collins). He's the type of coach that will put fire in my eyes. He says the right things. He's so motivated. He's hungry, wants his players to be hungry. He loves hitting.”
When asked about his goals at USM, Barnes said he's not so much concerned about playing early, but making an immediate impact in the locker room.
“I do want to have real good loyalty with my teammates,” Barnes said. “When I graduate from Southern Miss, hopefully my teammates will know that I'm a good person on and off the field. I want to have work ethic that will be remembered.”