Catawba Football: Barksdale a solid frosh for Indians
By Ryan Bisesi
SALISBURY — C.J. Barksdale is not “fresh meat” by any stretch of the imagination.
The moniker usually given to freshman entering college doesn’t apply to Barksdale, a state champion wrestler from Hillcrest High in Simpsonville, S.C.
Barksdale had a tackle for loss, forced a fumble and recovered two fumbles in Saturday’s loss to FCS opponent Coastal Carolina. He didn’t foresee himself making an impact this early, but some of the coaching staff saw his potential before the season began.
“In all our preseason talks, we talked about the fact we needed one of our freshman defensive linemen to step up,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said. “He has done that big-time.”
Barksdale has upperclassmen size at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds that coaches love to see early on. After wrestling ended, he weighed 235 before bulking up during the summer.
“He’s just a shade over 250 pounds, but it’s the right 250 pounds,” Hester said. “That guy has very little body fat.”
Barksdale didn’t expect to start right off the bat, but his Division I measurements and hard work in camp made that a viable possibility.
“I was just going to try my hardest to get on the field,” Barksdale said. “It worked out pretty good.”
After being an all-region defensive lineman/linebacker at Hillcrest, he’s come on to be an early factor in Catawba’s run defense. The Indians lead Division II in rushing defense after two games, allowing negative 5.5 yards per contest.The Indians allowed minus 24 yards rushing against St. Augustine’s in Week 1 and let Coastal Carolina run for a school-low 13 yards.
The two fumbles he recovered on Saturday gave Barksdale the team lead.
Barksdale was a grappler at the heavyweight class, helping Hillcrest to the 4A championship last year.
“Wrestling made me a better football player,” Barksdale said.
The defensive tackle has accordingly dealt with the first-year learning curve of the college game at the physical and mental level.
“Size,” remarked Barksdale of the differences between the high school and college game. “They got bigger, they got faster, the tempo came up.”
Barksdale has one tackle for loss heading into Saturday’s showdown with SAC foe Newberry. It’s the first home game for the Indians with both teams looking to avoid an 0-3 start.
“We played pretty good Saturday, but we’ve got to put more pressure on the quarterback,” said Barksdale, who hopes to attain double-digit sacks and tackles for loss in his first year.
“Physically and mentally he’s very mature,” Hester said. “If he’ll continue to progress, he’ll be one of those that we talk about for a long time.”