Dabo Swinney says that Tavaris Barnes looks the part: he's got the size, speed, and ability to be one of the best defensive ends in the nation.
"People come watch us practice, and they ask, 'who's No. 9?'" Swinney said.
The "best" part hasn't happened yet.
But Barnes says not to be surprised if it does, as he works to wrap up his sometimes frustrating college career on a high note.
It's not that the Jacksonville, Fla. product has played badly. He's been an integral part of Clemson's defensive end rotation for the past two years, spelling starters Corey Crawford and Malliciah Goodman.
But Barnes points out that there's a telling difference between him and Crawford.
"Honestly, Corey's a playmaker," Barnes said. "I'm a guy who's around the ball, but Corey makes plays. That's what I have to do - become a playmaker.
"I'm tired of playing backseat to other people, which is what I've done my whole career here. It's been a case of not believing in myself."
Barnes suggests that his own unrealistic expectations of the transition between high school and college were a factor in his losing his confidence.
"Coming out of high school, you feel like you're the man," Barnes said. "Then you get to college, and you're playing behind people. Or you're not playing at all.
"I lost my confidence. I didn't believe I could be that guy. Now I believe that I can. That's the difference this year."
Barnes said there was a time last season that he considered leaving after his junior year and taking a shot at the NFL draft.
He changed his mind, and decided to try to maximize his opportunity in his final go-round.
"I prayed about it and talked to my family about it, and I decided to come back and grind and make myself into one of the top defensive ends in the country," Barnes said. "I know if I'd left, I'd only have been hurting myself."
His goal for this season is to give it all he's got and see what happens.
"It's about my whole game, and being a leader on and off the field," Barnes said. "It's playing with intensity, working hard, playing nasty again, like I did in high school. I feel like I've gotten my confidence back."
Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc