By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications
Nearly unblockable in Concordia’s 28-3 win over Hastings on Sept. 12, Trey Barnes “breathed fire” that evening as voice of the Bulldogs Jayson Jorgensen exclaimed in a description of the Seward native’s second sack of the game. Quick and explosive off the ball, Barnes is a natural at terrorizing quarterbacks and getting cozy in the opposition’s backfield.
“Even going back to the spring it was apparent we had something special with him at that defensive end spot,” said defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow.
Just a couple of years earlier, Barnes carried the ball 20 times for 70 yards against that same Bronco program. Barnes, an all-state player at Seward High School, began his Bulldog career as a running back. In his very first collegiate game, he rushed for a pair of touchdowns to help Concordia to a 30-15 win at William Jewell College in 2013.
Fast forward to the present and one finds Barnes as the team leader in sacks (2.5), tackles for loss (4.0) and quarterback hurries (3) for a defense that ranks second best in the NAIA in terms of total yards allowed per game (190.3). The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder has bounced around from running back, to linebacker to what appears to be his final landing spot along the defensive line.
Barnes arrived at Concordia expecting to play defense, but lack of depth at running back necessitated a move to the other side of the ball. The switch back to defense hasn’t minded Barnes, who just wants what’s best for his team.
“I actually approached the coaches,” Barnes said. “I wanted to play defense. Bryce (Collins) is a tremendous running back and I knew he was able to take care of that. I felt like we could use another body on defense to help with all the injuries we had last year. I just stuck with defense from there. It’s turned out well.”
The coaches have been especially pleased with Barnes’ willingness to shift roles on the fly – even in the middle of the season as he did in 2014. He has been productive anywhere on the field. The versatile Barnes owns 575 rushing yards, seven touchdowns and 39 tackles to his name.
“It’s a testament to Trey,” Daberkow said. “He said, ‘yeah, wherever you need me.’ He ended up playing real well his freshman year so he stuck at running back going into his sophomore year. Then we had major holes to fill on defense and Bryce was playing well, so he just made the move to linebacker where we had a hole to fill. Trey was athletically very capable of doing it. Once he got rolling on it he was pretty good.”
While learning the defensive line position near the end of the 2014 season, Barnes actually disappeared from the team’s weekly two deeps heading into the final two games (versus Dakota Wesleyan and at Briar Cliff). He made a combined three tackles in those games. Those two Concordia victories were hardly an indicator of the potential Barnes possessed.
By this past spring, Barnes had bulked up and was benching 355 pounds, squatting 465 and running the 40-yard dash in the neighborhood of 4.6. Unfortunately for opposing offensive tackles, a light turned on for Barnes, who no longer has to worry about learning coverages. He’s simply told to go make plays.
“Things just started clicking through spring ball and it looked like a position I was able to handle,” Barnes said. “I put on some weight and this should be my finishing position the next two years.”
As a Bluejay linebacker, Barnes drew interest from such schools as Doane, Nebraska Wesleyan and South Dakota State University. He had thoughts of attending the University of Nebraska-Kearney, but was never recruited heavily by the Lopers. Says Barnes, “Concordia coaches started talking to me and I really liked Coach (Vance) Winter and Coach Daberkow. They came to our house and talked to me. That kind of sealed the deal.”
At the time of his recruitment, Daberkow described Barnes as a “great talent” with the ability to add 15 to 20 pounds to his frame. Barnes has actually added roughly 30 pounds since his freshman year.
He’s made himself into the perfect combination of size, strength, speed and quickness to replace the productivity of Kyle Rakow, who earned second team all-conference last season as a senior. Barnes’ rapid development is a key reason why the Bulldogs have gone from 48th in total defense a year ago to second so far this year.
“He’s been huge,” Daberkow said. “I’m not surprised by it all because the first day of full pads this fall we went to an inside run period and he was getting off the ball like he did against Hastings.”
Even when not directly involved in the play, Barnes is a hazard to opponents. On LeDontrae Gooden’s first-quarter interception in the win over Hastings, Barnes blew up an unsuspecting Bronco attempting to track down Gooden.
Son of Seward Public Schools superintendent Greg Barnes, Trey is comfortable being right in his own back yard. He’s continuing to raise his profile within the Seward community. “I got quite a few text messages Sunday,” said Barnes following the Hastings game.
With his dragon-like habits on the edge, Barnes has brought elite defense back to Concordia.