"At the beginning of the year, I was just worried about trying to be the most dominate and got caught up in the hype," Barnett said. "I just love playing aggressive. I've learned how to channel it in the right areas."
Coach Mike Gundy said that was a major turning point for Barnett, who had just two personal foul penalties the rest of the season. Barnett's ability to chase quarterbacks out of the pocket and knack for stuffing the run – along with 30 tackles, 8 for loss – garnered him All-Big 12 First-Team honors from the coaches and recognition as the conference's defensive newcomer of the year.
"I kind of saw it coming," Barnett said. "But I didn't think it would be as good as it was. I actually think it could have been better."
With his aggression in check, Barnett and Gundy both believe the best is yet to come.
"His body is in much better condition now than when he first got here," Gundy said. "Which is normal, those guys come from that (junior college) level and it takes us six months to get him in shape … He was somewhat out of control when he got here, he had about three or four fouls against Arizona. But we got him under control."
Barnett said the simple things have made the biggest difference this offseason, like eating healthier. Defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements has raved about Barnett's athleticism and drive in the early spring. The praise just reminds Barnett to stay grounded.
"It's a blessing when it comes down to it," Barnett said. "That's really how I look at it."