“Matt Barkley walks into a Barr. Ouch.”
Though I never enjoy seing a player get injured—regardless of their school of choice—this spinoff of what may be the most overused joke of all time serves as the perfect description of Anthony Barr‘s play at linebacker last season. Well, aside from the “walking” into him part—it was more of a steamroll.
Barr, who could have easily been a top 10 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, decided to stay in school for his senior year, and has the potential to lead the Bruins to new heights. After switching around in the backfield from fullback to halfback, Barr found that his talent was at the linebacker position. In the midst of recording 13.5 sacks for -70 yards last season, he continued to raise the bar and soar to new heights. Pushing the opposition back 175 yards in 14 games allowed the offense to get going early, and though he didn’t give the offense yards as a running back, he gave them chances as a linebacker.
His choice to stay at UCLA, though, could be critical to his development as an athlete. This season is make or break for him—a chance to raise, or possibly drop, his draft stock. Already added to the Lott watch list, Barr has a lot to live up to. The Lott IMPACT Trophy is awarded annually to a defensive player for making an impact both on and off the field, something Barr has already accomplished. His play last season was outstanding both statistically and emotionally. He ranked second in the nation in sacks while leading his team both on and off the field.
I see Barr matching, if not exceeding, his benchmarks last season. But his offseason work will be the determining factor. Keep an eye on him when the Bruins face off against Stanford and Oregon in back-to-back games, as it will be a test of his tackling abilities in the Bay Area, and a test of his speed and football IQ in Eugene. Barr can and will be one of many keys to the Bruins’ success this season. If he plays like we know he can, a Rose Bowl for UCLA isn’t that farfetched after all.