The Best of the Best: Anthony Barr
We’re now eight days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part three of my Best of the Best series. This 10 article series will take a look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football. For my rankings, I factored my Draft stock for each player, as well as their impact in the college game. While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle. With that said, it’s time to look at my number eight prospect, UCLA Linebacker Anthony Barr.
Tale of the Tape
Career Numbers (1 season on defense)
84 total tackles
21 tackles for a loss
5 passes deflected
4 forced fumbles
After beginning his Bruin career as an H-Back, Anthony Barr has found a home at Linebacker in UCLA’s 3-4 scheme. Barr may be the most surprising name on my list being that he’s only been playing the position for 14 games, but when you watch him it’s easy to see why he’s here. He’s an incredible athlete still learning how to play as a pass rusher, but there’s a lot to love about his game. He’s quick and explosive, a violent tackler, and he has a good level of pursuit and lateral ability. So first we’ll start with why he made my list.
- One thing that stands out to me about Barr is how effective he is rushing the Quarterback, despite being very raw in terms of technique. Barr doesn’t have a go to pass rushing move, and honestly his passing rushing moves as a whole leave a lot to be desired. However he does flash ability with several moves, but more importantly he outworks and out hustles his blockers. His sacks are effort sacks, where he’s just faster, stronger, and working harder than the man trying to stop him which I love. Barr also flashes awareness to disrupt passes even when he can’t get to the QB, showing the ability to anticipate the throw and leap to knock it down.
- On this play against USC, we’ll see Barr’s ability to get into the passing lane and disrupt the pass.
- Barr hesitates slightly at the line but it ends up helping him. He’s able to run around blockers untouched due to the hesitation, and while it’s not him that gets to Quarterback Matt Barkley he’s the one that makes the play. He knocks the ball down on 3rd and 10, and forces the Trojans to punt.
- On this play against Cal, we’ll see Barr at his absolute best in regards to rushing the passer. He gets a good jump off the line, and when he engages the blocker he is able to keep his arm extended to keep the Tackle off his pads. He also is able to keep an arm free to put himself in even better position for the play.
- A different angle of the play shows how Barr is able to keep the Offensive Tackle off his body.
- Barr shows off some nimble feet to dance in the backfield, then punishes the Quarterback with a jarring hit. He wraps up and drives through the QB with violent aggression, knocking the ball free in the process.
- This next play will show how effective Barr can be with pass rushing moves once he gets completely comfortable with the position. Barr gets a great jump off the snap, firing down field, and towards the Tackle.
- As Barr reaches the blocker he flashes a devastating spin move. His spin is so quick, and so explosive, that the Tackle has no chance to get him blocked.
- Another look at the play shows how easily Barr gets around the blocker.
- He shows inexperience in not being able to finish the play with a sack, but his move forces the Quarterback to step up field, where his teammates clean up for him.
- One last thing that I want to highlight about Barr is how he routinely finds lanes to get through when he’s rushing. He’s essentially a Running Back when he’s rushing the passer, finding areas of the line where he can cut and explode through to create havoc.
- Barr begins heading down hill as the ball is snapped, but there isn’t really a gap for him to get through on the left side of the line.
- He quickly locates the lane in between the Guard and Right Tackle, and changes direction in his rush.
- Barr quickly shoots through the gap, and he makes the read so quickly that the Running back isn’t able to pick him up. Quarterback Matt Barkley is able to get rid of the ball before the sack occurs, but it’s still an impressive rush.
- For such a raw player Barr makes a lot of plays in run support. He pursues well, flashes sideline to sideline ability, and is a good tackler. I’m also impressed with the ease at which he breaks blocks at time. His hand technique needs a lot of refinement, but he’s able to disengage with incredible strength and determination in order to free himself to make plays.
- On this play in the Pac 12 Championship against Stanford, Barr shows the ability to pursue and close on a player, as well as finish the play with a drag down tackle.
- Barr has been given a free release on his rush with the play designed away from him, but he uses great closing speed to get into the backfield and cause the Running Back to adjust his path.
- The Running Back makes a move to evade Barr, however he’s not able to outrun him fully, and gets his hands on him in the backfield.
- Despite not having the back wrapped up, Barr is able to utilize great strength to drag him to the ground with the one arm he has on his jersey.
- Later in the game against Stanford Barr shows a very underrated skill in run support, the ability to seal the edge and force the Running Back back inside.
- Barr engages the Tackle, and does a good job keeping his arms extended so that the blocker can’t get into his pads and move him easily. Notice the pulling Guard marked with the yellow square, he will come across the field and pick up the block on Barr so the Tackle can get down field to block.
- The Guard picks the block up, but now Barr as been able to line himself up with the Running Back, creating a situation where the RB will have to run through him to get to the edge.
- Barr does a good job staying extended on this play, which gives him the ability to move laterally. This forces the RB to move back to the inside of the field where his teammates are able to clean up the play.
- Whether it’s a Quarterback or a Running Back that he’s chasing Barr has great pursuit ability. He’s shows good athleticism to actually get to the opposition, and has quick feet to avoid traffic.
- On this play we’ll look at Barr’s pursuit ability while rushing the QB. Barr gets into the backfield relatively easily, however Barkley will be able to escape.
- Barkley is able to step up and evade Barr’s rush. Barkley will show some decent athleticism of his own, as he escapes towards the edge of the field. However Barr isn’t out of the play.
- Barr is chipped by the Running Back, but he refuses to give up on the play.
- Barr pursues the QB throughout the play, and the result is Barkley being forced to throw the ball before he’s ready. The down ends up being converted, but it’s no fault of Barr’s.
Intensity on the Field
- This last one is pretty self-explanatory. Anthony Barr is an extremely physical player who seems to love delivering violent, punishing hits to players. While he may draw a foul every now and then, he plays with a bit of a mean streak (while not getting reckless) that I love. Once his technique is more sound he may end up being somewhat of an enforcer on Defense in the same way a guy like James Harrison was for many years.
While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too. So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Barr improve in 2013.
Diagnosing Plays Better
- At times Barr actually does a very good job reading the play, adjusting, and flowing to the ball carrier. However, his inexperience does cause him to have trouble diagnosing plays on a somewhat regular basis. He especially needs to work on his understanding of the option, as he can be caught badly out of position when he faces it.
- On this play we’ll see Stanford run a Read Option play, where the Quarterback will keep the ball. Barr’s responsibility is to play the Quarterback and force him to hand the ball to the Running Back where he has teammates to crash down on him.
- Barr is slow to diagnose the play as a Read, and over pursues. This creates a lane for the QB.
- Barr attempts to grab the Quarterback as he escapes, but he’s unable to.
- Barr does recover well, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a first down run that could have been prevented with better awareness.
- Just a few plays later they get him again with the exact same read.
- This isn’t really an improvement, but one of his biggest flaws. Because he’s only been playing defense for one season Barr doesn’t do a lot of “little things” you would like him to. He doesn’t utilize proper leverage, his hand placement and technique is not where you would like it, and he has a delayed reaction to deception plays. All of these things come with practice though, which he just hasn’t had enough. As he continues to play and get repetitions throughout the regular season I would expect him to make strides in all of these areas. Still, for now they are flaws in his game that he will need to make progress in to be drafted as high as he could be.
Barr is a supremely gifted athlete, who right now is in the progress of learning how to play a position. He’s got great downhill quickness, and can flow sideline to sideline well. His quick feet allow him to cut through traffic at a good rate, and his time as an Offensive player allows him to see rush lanes very quickly. He also is good in pursuit, and is an effective pass rusher despite a lack of consistent pass rush moves. Finally, Barr is a physical and violent football player, who can impose his will on players at times.
The biggest question with Barr is progression. Does he continue to get better at the rapid rate he’s already improved, or does he hit his ceiling before most believe he will? He has all the physical tools to be a dominant pass rusher in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 alignment. His technique needs a lot of seasoning, and he may need to learn for a few years before he can perform at a high level in the NFL, however there’s no denying he’s one of the best pass rushers in college football, and one of my Best of the Best.
Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series. Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13