Hurst (Texas) L.D. Bell tight end Chris Barnett has long held offers from all over the country but the 6-foot-6, 245-pound standout decided to commit to Arkansas following an official visit in October. However, he is now open to exploring some other options as well.
Barnett maintains that he is still committed to the Razorbacks but wants to fully evaluate all options. A few schools have stepped up their recruitment of the Rivals250 prospect as of late and he is planning to officially visit two of those programs in the near future.
"I'm taking an official to Michigan on (Jan.) 28 and an official to Miami this weekend," Barnett said on Wednesday afternoon. I've talked to coach Heck (Jeff Hecklinski) at Michigan. I've talked to coach Brennan Carroll, the new tight end coach, at Miami. I've also talked to the head coach, coach (Al) Golden."
Barnett says he has made sure head coach Bobby Petrino and the Arkansas staff are aware of his upcoming trips.
"They know (about the visits)," he said. "Coach Petrino isn't too happy about it but he said, 'We understand that you have officials. You have five of them. If you have to and you need to, you should do that.' They don't really want me to but they're okay with it."
Barnett's home will be a popular stop for college coaches this week and next. In addition to his weekly visits with his recruiters, two head coaches plan to stop by.
"Tomorrow coach (Bobby) Petrino and coach (Garrick) McGee at Arkansas are coming to do an in-home visit," he said. "Coach Brennan Carroll from Miami is coming down this week too to do a visit. Coach Heck at Michigan is also coming down this week for a visit. Coach Heck is coming down again next week with the head coach for another visit before I fly out for my official."
In addition to Miami and Michigan, a Pac-12 school has entered the picture as well. USC is heavily pursuing the four-star tight end and the Trojans are under consideration as well.
"I've been out there twice," Barnett said of USC. "I scheduled an official to go there in October but I never made it because I got really sick. I did go out there for the Rising Stars camp, (Anthony) Wallace and I went out there for that, and it was really nice. I've been talking to coach (Willie Mack) Garza and they're still in the mix too."
With signing day being less than two weeks away, Barnett has decided he will not be ready to make a final decision by that time. Because of that, he says he plans to wait to sign his national letter-of-intent.
"I'm not going to sign on signing day," he said/ "Once you sign it's a done deal. This is the biggest decision I've made in my life. When you are deciding where to spend four or five years of your life you want to make sure you are making the best possible decision. You want to make sure that, if anything goes wrong along the way, that you're still going to be happy being there.
"You have to make sure you're in a family atmosphere with people who truly care about you. You're going away from your immediate family so you need somewhere that you know, if it all falls apart, you're still going to be alright.
"With Michigan, USC and Miami just now really getting back into the mix and signing day being around the corner, I'm not going to have enough time to evaluate them the way I want to in just a couple weeks. They're also not going to be able to evaluate me the way they really need to in a couple of weeks. I don't want to make that decision if I haven't been able to evaluate every possible decision and every possible outcome all the way through.
"I want to be able to, when I sit back and just think about that school, that my heart is there. I want to feel like, 'That's my home.' I want to like it so much that, after I get done playing college football, that I love being in that city and around those people so much that I want to move back."
Barnett has some other news as well. He was injured late in the season but is on the road to recovery. He still expects to be ready to play this season.
"I don't think anyone knows about me tearing my ACL this past season," he said. "I tore it in October but I didn't have surgery until a few weeks ago. All the colleges know. They're all aware of it and they say it's fine. They all said, 'We still want you,' and that means something.
"They said it would be six months (of recovery time). It was nine months to the first game, the day I had surgery. I get released at six months. At six months I can do whatever I want. I can play football after six months and we have nine months until the first game so I'll have an extra three months on top of that to get more in shape."