UCLA's keys to success: No. 2, OLB Anthony Barr
AUG 28, 2013 2:34p ET
Outside linebacker Anthony Barr is the type of player that makes scouts drool and fans go crazy. He can run the ball, catch passes and rip the heads off of opposing quarterbacks.
There isn't much that the Barr can't do. -- he should probably consider running for president.
Barr took the college football scene by storm last season when he was named an All-American in only his first season playing the position. Barr and South Carolina's Jadaveon Clowney are considered two of the top defensive players in the country and are both expected to be top-10 picks in next year's NFL Draft.
Barr's sacks, tackles and tackles for loss numbers were all ranked among the top-10 in the nation last season. During spring timing day, he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash -- had he attended the NFL combine, the time would have been tied for the fastest in his position group.
How much better can Barr get? It's tough to tell but he does have another season to prove himself and show his development.
"He just started, he's a neophyte," said head coach Jim Mora. "I don't even know if we can identify where his ceiling is yet."
"You look for a certain profile typically," Mora said. "Part of the profile is skill set, part of the profile is football IQ, their aptitude to grasp concepts and put them into action on the field.
"If you can get the perfect combination, which you rarely can, you've come across something pretty special."
Barr is as close to that perfect profile as a college senior – one who has only played a year of linebacker – can get.
Importance of Barr
There is a lot resting on the broad shoulders of Barr this season.
Barr gives an already formidable defensive front a tremendous advantage. The expectations are sky-high given his performance last season and although he is sure to see heavier coverage and schemes against him, his ability to use his body much like that of a smaller athlete is invaluable in getting around coverage, making tackles and most importantly, getting to the quarterback.
But he was also named a defensive captain and the once-shy player has seemingly come out of his shell and embraced the attention he has received as of late. UCLA is expected to fully campaign for him as a Heisman Trophy candidate, which could bring much positive attention to a growing program.
It's a lot to balance in a season that will ultimately determine his future.
Number of Note: 13.5
Only two players in the nation had more sacks than Clowney, and Barr was one of them. Barr's 13.5 sacks raised the eyebrows of even Clowney's coach at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier. One such sack ended USC quarterback Matt Barkley's USC career. Needless to say, the only quarterback Barr is a probably a friend of these days is Brett Hundley.
Mora: "One of the things that makes Anthony so special beyond the measurables and the work ethic is just his mindset. He demands greatness of himself all of the time. It's just that rare combination of all of the physical skills with the work ethic and then that mindset that he's got, that's what makes great players."
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks: "Barr is a versatile three-down playmaker with the potential to impact the run or pass as an edge player. Although he must smooth out some of the rough spots in his game, there are few players capable of matching his disruptive potential on the collegiate level. If he continues to make strides in his development, he will enter the NFL viewed as a Julian Peterson-like playmaker with big-time potential."
Highlight-reel hits, scared quarterbacks and his face plastered on billboards in Westwood. Barr's profile is about to reach heights he never expected.