In the late stages of Wake Forest's football game at home against Gardner-Webb last Saturday, former Rocky Mount standout offensive lineman Whit Barnes saw his his first varsity playing time in a Demon Deacon uniform.
The redshirt sophomore who has bided his time on WFU's bench, played in one complete series Saturday during Wake's 48-5 blowout of the boys from Boiling Springs. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder had been the second-string center this year for the Deacs, who have gotten out to a 2-1 start.
Barnes, an Associated Press All-Stater and Shrine Bowl participant for the Gryphons who went 38-6 on the field during his three years as a starter, has fought off shoulder and knee injuries to get to this point in his career.
"I was in for one series, playing at center at the end of the game and I did well for the time I was in, " said Barnes, who has declared business and enterprise management as his major.
He is enjoying a week off as his Deacs get ready for a trip to Chestnut Hill and the Boston College Eagles next Saturday.
"I am looking forward to more playing time in the future," Barnes said. "But overall, this team has more motivation and excitement than either of the teams that I have been a part of the past two years. We had a close loss against Syracuse, and wins against N.C. State and Gardner-Webb. All of which have added up to a positive attitude going into these two weeks that we have to prepare for Boston College."
Even a bowl game is in the minds of WFU players. After a trip to the Orange Bowl during a dream 2007 season, the Deacs have had just one winning campaign since. You might say head coach Jim Grobe, one the ACC's highest paid football coaches ($2.4 million a year, second behind Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson), is on the hot seat.
"We are working hard to play in a bowl game," said Barnes. "We know that we can beat every team on our schedule, but we have to play our best every week. We have to cut down on the penalties and make more plays. But we know we have the athletes and the energy to do it.
"This year has been exciting so far and we are all looking forward to going to BC and bringing home a win."