- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2009

Like any other first-day NFL Draft prospect, Kevin Barnes maintained a rigorous schedule as soon as he departed school.

He trained in Arizona for two months, thrived at the NFL combine and partook in the usual continental crisscrossing to work out for pro teams.

Of course, there’s time for a little rest for a guy not too far removed from college.

“One team called me at 8 o’clock this morning,” the former Maryland cornerback said. “Of course, I’m asleep. My mom calls me and says, ‘Why don’t you answer your phone? Teams are trying to call you.’ ”

At least one will be calling this weekend, too.

Barnes, along with wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, are the Terrapins’ two obvious candidates for Saturday selection. While the speedy Heyward-Bey is a likely first-round pick, Barnes is an intriguing second-round possibility despite missing the second half of his senior season.

At 6-foot-1, 188 pounds, he’s large enough to succeed at the professional level. Although a cornerback, he delivered one of the most memorable hits in college football last season, laying out Cal’s Jahvid Best with a blow that prompted to star tailback to vomit onto the Byrd Stadium sod a minute later.

And he left the combine with a 41 on the Wonderlic test, the best of any prospect this season on the 12-minute, 50-question exam used to evaluate logical thinking and problem solving.

That would satisfy almost anyone. Almost.

“It was kind of disappointing,” Barnes said. “When I finished taking it, I was like, ‘I can only see myself getting one wrong. OK, I got a 49.’ ”

Not quite, but it still provided a boost to a player whose final season was cut short when he fractured his left shoulder blade Oct. 18.

Surgery cost him a chance to play in the Terps’ final six games, but he was still in Arizona in early January to begin training. He was bench-pressing by the time the combine arrived and was fully prepared to demonstrate his physical readiness.

In some ways, he might be better-suited for the pro game than college. He faced so much one-on-one coverage at Maryland that his ability to take risks for a greater payoff was negated, and the possibility of receiving help from safeties in pro defenses might help him exploit his size.

“He’s a long corner,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “The receivers in the NFL are so big. He’s a good athlete and he runs well, so there’s few of those guys around.”

He’s received significant interest in recent weeks. Baltimore, Denver, Detroit and Philadelphia all brought Barnes in for workouts, and New England coach Bill Belichick stopped in College Park for an extended talk.

Barnes’ coverage skills earn him notice, but his physicality is also a factor - his senior season ended with a fumble-forcing collision with Wake Forest’s D.J. Boldin.

Then there was the hit on Best, a signature moment Barnes could savor and turn to when his ability to hit is questioned.

“I probably would have been a lot more down if I hadn’t left some kind of impact,” Barnes said. “Every visit I go on, coaches ask me about my tackling. I say, ‘You got YouTube on your computer?’ ”

They liked what they saw. With workouts for teams finished, this week’s pace is slower, and Barnes plans to keep a phone nearby throughout the weekend.

Perhaps his injury prevented Barnes from climbing higher in the draft. But between his smarts and skills, he doesn’t consider himself a risky pick. And he’s certain he will take a big call in the next few days.

“I don’t really think so, because I had a good combine,” Barnes said. “Obviously, they know I’m capable of playing. Regardless, I’m healthy now. I feel like I’ll be a steal wherever I get picked. There’s no cap on how high I could have gone had I not gotten hurt.”

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