When Brian Kelly took over the University of Cincinnati football team last December, he wasn’t sure what kind of players he inherited. And one Bearcat receiver didn’t make the best first impression with the new head football coach when he appeared in Kelly’s office with a skull hanging from his neck. Marcus Barnett remembers the encounter. “It wasn’t a real human skull. That’s just the style I’m into right now. I’ve got a little skull from Six Flags that I turned into a necklace and like to wear it. It also goes with my nickname, ‘Bones.’ That’s what everyone calls me.” The matter was resolved when Coach Kelly told Marcus that he could wear the skull in his room, but he was forbidden to wear his cranial jewelry in public.
Coach Kelly probably wasn’t the only person unfamiliar with Barnett in 2007 since Marcus missed all of training camp and redshirted. He explained why. “I had some (NCAA) Clearinghouse problems. My school sent in some wrong documents, and I had to sit out due to that. I got back for the first game, but I missed camp and a lot of work so I had to redshirt.”
The 6’ 1” receiver is also a bit of an entrepreneur, along with one of his teammates. They have created a new wristband that they want to try and market. “It’s a design that me and Marty (Gilyard) came up with. It was basically him, but we take a whole sleeve and cut it. It looks like two small wrist bands connected. We want to get it patented if anyone would want to help us out with that.” Bearcat Insider will not supply pictures of the wrist bands for fear of competitors stealing the idea.
Barnett and Gilyard are not only possible business partners. Marcus believes they share something else-speed. “I bring a lot of speed to the team. I think Marty and I are two of the fastest guys on the team.” Barnett said his fastest 40-yard-dash time is in the range of 4.3 seconds. Coach Molnar, the Bearcat receiver coach, supports Barnett’s contention. “He’s one of our faster guys. He runs well and has good quickness with pretty good concentration going after a football.”
His taste in jewelry aside, Bearcat football coaches had concerns about Barnett’s size and toughness. Coach Molnar shared his concerns at the time. “When he showed up in the spring, I was really unsure of what kind of football player he was. He proved himself throughout the spring when he got better just about every day. He got his sights on a starting position, and because of his performance and other guys getting hurt, he’s gotten a chance to run with the 1’s pretty much most of camp.” Coach Kelly has described Marcus as “fearless.” The 170 pound Barnett recited a time honored football philosophy. “You can’t be scared out there, or you’ll get hurt. If you go hard every play, the chances of you getting hurt decrease.”
The Maryland resident continues to show improvement and has ascended the depth chart this summer. Charley Molnar gave the present groupings. “Today (Friday) our #1 group was Marty Gilyard, Dominick Goodman, and Marcus Barnett, but we feel we have six or seven starters including Antwuan Giddens, Jared Martin, Mike Daniels and David Wess. Not to be outdone, we also have Kurt Shoemaker and Charley Howard, and we’ve moved up Armon Binns, who is getting some work with the travel group.” Marcus may have been with the #1 group today, but he didn’t sound satisfied. “I’m getting there, but I’m not where I want to be right now. I can make plays, but I want to make a play every play. I want to be the ‘go to’ receiver. On fourth down when we need it, I want them to look my way.” Coach Molnar said the Bearcats have a vacancy for a “go to” receiver but don’t necessarily need one. “We haven’t found that guy yet, but there could eventually be one out here. Our offense is so comprehensive in the passing game that any guy can get the ball so all the receivers have to be pretty good.”
With all the competition at receiver, not everyone will get playing time as Coach Molnar explained. “We’ll probably use six in the first game or two because of the weather and the nature of our offense, but as the weather cools and some guys really start to rise above the others, it may go down a guy or two.”
Marty’s goal for this season is simple and deals with adding to his jewelry collection. “I want to get a ring.” I don’t expect Coach Kelly will have any problem with Marcus wearing a Big East Championship ring in public, as long as it’s not accompanied by that damn skull.