High School Football

Rock Hill football sophomore commits to traditional SEC power

Rock Hill's Antonio Barber committed to Tennessee on April 27, 2018.
Rock Hill's Antonio Barber committed to Tennessee on April 27, 2018.

Rock Hill High sophomore Antonio Barber has a folder stuffed with recruiting mail from dozens of colleges. His commitment to play football at Tennessee, announced in a tweet on Friday, isn't likely to slow the deluge of mail over the next year-plus.

But Barber's commitment to the Vols does mean that all the schools sending mail are now chasing Tennessee.

"They had always been one of my top schools before I had the offer," Barber said Saturday morning. "That kind of made it an easier decision."

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound receiver's two-day visit to the school in January showed him the things he'd envisioned about Tennessee, in reality. That further strengthened his belief that Tennessee was the right choice.

Barber appreciated Tennessee's new coach Jeremy Pruitt's candor. He didn't tell Barber that he would start right away in Knoxville in two years, but rather that he would get the chance to do so.

"Coach Pruitt, he kept it real," said Barber, who could play defensive back in college.

Barber was also blown away by the monstrous Neyland Stadium, which holds 109,000 orange-clad fans every Tennessee home game, and also the welcoming vibe he felt from current Vols players.

Barber began to receive scholarship offers after his freshman year, first from schools like Towson and N.C. Central, and later from bigger football powers. Virginia Tech, Clemson, Notre Dame and Syracuse are the other schools recruiting Barber the hardest. Tennessee was already on Barber's radar in part because of his connection to former Rock Hill High star Jonathan Hefney, who played for the Vols from 2004 to 2007.

Barber's sophomore season ended early because of a fractured fibula. Explosive and athletic, he caught 31 passes for 507 yards in six and a half games, including four touchdowns, but the aborted season only increased his desire to dominate in 2018.

His classmate and Bearcats teammate, 6-foot-2 defensive back Anthony Jackson, had a big day on Friday too, receiving a scholarship offer from Duke. Barber and Jackson, along with 2017 All-Area defensive player of the year Narii Gaither, give Rock Hill and coach Bubba Pittman great hope that a big 2018 season is on the horizon.

"We just want to come in a be a hungry group," Barber said. "We all want to be the leaders of the team, step up and do our job. Last year, we kind of had some ups and downs, so now everybody is just trying to get healthy and get stronger and come into the season ready to dominate."

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