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Nadir Barnwell sneaky good

PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Nadir Barnwell is a cheater.

But wait. That's not necessarily a knock on Piscataway (N.J.) High School cornerback. He's just doing what he can to help his team.

"You've got to learn little ways to cheat without the ref knowing," Barnwell said during the Pittsburgh Next Level seven-on-seven this weekend.

So is it cheating if a flag isn't thrown?

"Nope," Barnwell said with a sly grin. "Me and the receiver know I'm pulling on his shirt, but if the ref doesn't know it, I'm happy."

Yet it's more than just a tug here and there. Barnwell has made himself a student of the game. The nuances in sizing up a receiver can make a difference for the prospect who has 11 scholarship offers.

"Little stuff, like watching their feet and watching their hips and just trying to anticipate," the 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior said. "A lot of cornerback is guessing and anticipating what they're going to do."

That attention to detail goes beyond the football field. Ask Barnwell what he wants to improve on during the offseason and be prepared to get an answer to the tenth degree.

"I've been putting on weight," he said. "I'm about 188.5 [pounds]. I want to stay there. I want to get my footwork better and learn new ways to cheat at cornerback."

Don't let the cheating thing cloud who Barnwell is. He and his father wouldn't dream of doing anything that isn't truly above board. Barnwell credits his father, Harvey Barnwell, for making him the man he is. Clearly, there was a goal in his upbringing.

"First and foremost, he has to be a leader," the elder Barnwell said. "Outside of sports, I instilled the fact that he has to be smart in the classroom to be smart on the field. The utmost thing is leadership. He has to be a leader.

"Sports is just an avenue for life," Harvey said. "With him, I tell him you have to utilize what you do on this football field ... in order to succeed in life. It should be a building block to make you a better man and make you a better person. And hopefully give what you learned to someone else."

For now, he's is focusing on improving and dealing with recruiting. Already, Rutgers has a huge advantage in recruiting him. His mother's house is a five-minute drive to Rutgers campus. His father lives 15 minutes away. Proximity will be a factor.

"Rutgers is very homey to me," Barnwell said. "I have a great relationship with the coaches. I like them a lot. I would be very comfortable there."

That, however, doesn't mean Barnwell should be draped in scarlet just yet. He still has scholarship offers from Rutgers, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts, Kansas, Notre Dame and Penn State to consider.

Penn State has made a positive impression with its recent makeover under first-year coach Bill O'Brien, the former New England Patriots' offensive coordinator.

"I liked Penn State a lot," Barnwell said of a recent visit there. "They had great facilities. I like the coaches. The offense looks better than it did before with Coach O'Brien. He brought that Patriots [offense] back to Penn State.

On Barnwell's side of the ball, he said he was also impressed with the Nittany Lions' defensive scheme.

"They play a lot of man," he said. "I love man. I love putting my hands on the person. I don't mind playing zone because in zone you can sit back a little more. It doesn't take as much energy. But in man I can put my hands on them. I'm very aggressive."

Barnwell said he's impressed with the class that Penn State has assembled. O'Brien already has seven prospects committed, including five four-star prospects.

"I like to be amongst other playmakers, great guys and great people in general," Barnwell said. "It brings good energy."

Barnwell has also visited Notre Dame.

"I liked Notre Dame a lot," he said. "They had a great campus. Of course they have a great education, great program. I like the coaches."

Other schools will continue to come calling. Barnwell said he believes that Southern California, UCLA, Ohio State and Central Florida are close to offering him a scholarship. Given the distance, the west coast would be more than the average commitment that Barnwell is thinking about.

"I wouldn't mind it," he said, before contemplating such a move. "I'd have to get used to the timing difference because of jet lag. I wouldn't mind going that far. I'd get homesick like crazy but I wouldn't mind going that far."

Barnwell doesn't mind it, but it may be hard to turn his back on the team just around the corner.

"That's very big," he said of the proximity to Rutgers' campus to his parents homes. "They could just drive to my game."