Barr now has a defensive state of mind

Published Apr. 5, 2012 9:34 p.m. ET

LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Barr considers himself to be an athlete.

"I feel like I can do just about anything on the field," Barr said. "Anything you ask me to."

Being an athlete was probably his best trait coming out of Loyola High School in 2010.

As he entered college, though, it appears it's turned out to be his biggest knock.

Where is Anthony Barr going to play?

That question has followed him since his days as a Loyola Cub.

Barr made the decision entering UCLA that he wanted to play offense. He spent his first two years playing primarily the F-back position in Rick Neuheisel's pistol offense.

He saw some time at running back, where he made a name for himself in high school and on special teams. But Barr wasn't pleased with his role.

"(I was) frustrated. Disappointed. It was a number of things," Barr said. "I just felt like we were disorganized and nobody really knew what to expect on a given play. It was frustrating."

After spending his first two years of college on the offensive side of the ball, Barr approached new head coach Jim Mora about a change.

"He came in and requested the move, and we were kind of thinking of it anyway," said Mora. "He felt like for him to play at the next level, that was a better fit for him, and our opinions kind of matched. Not that we were looking at him at the next level. We were just looking (at) this guy (who) is an outstanding athlete, and you need great athletes at that position."

The position is outside linebacker, a position he played some as a freshman in high school and during an injury shortened senior season.

Barr felt it was time for him to take a step towards fulfilling what he set out to do once he entered college.

"I just wasn't happy with what I was doing the last two years," Barr said. "I felt that if I was going to make a switch, I had to be all in and it would be the best for the future."

He was named the offensive winner of the John Boncheff, Jr. Memorial Award for Rookie of the Year after a freshman campaign that saw him score three rushing touchdowns, while also catching nine passes for 66 yards.

Last season, Barr had 12 receptions for 82 yards and carried the ball nine times for 25 yards, scoring two touchdowns.

However, he felt he wasn't being used in a way he could make an impact.

"I don't think I ever really had a defined role. I was more of a decoy and a blocker," Barr said. "I came here to be a playmaker and make plays and help the team win. While I felt like I did that somewhat last year, it wasn't as much as I wanted to."

Coming out of high school, a recruiting guru said of Barr, "When he does play defense, he is a difference maker at the OLB or SS position. He is an outstanding athlete who is explosive out of his stance, and he sometimes looks like he is being shot out of a cannon as he approaches the QB."

It was the type of thinking that made him a national recruit, with Florida State, Notre Dame and USC among the schools that wanted his services.

Fast forward to today where Barr thinks he can now have the sort of impact that was expected of him originally.

"I told (coach Mora I wanted to play) linebacker, and then when he said he was running a 3-4, the outside (linebacker position), I felt like it was a perfect fit," Barr said.

Mora agrees.

"When you look at him physically, he looks exactly like you want an outside linebacker to look," Mora said. "He looks like a guy that can have an impact."

A huge difference, the head coach believes, is going from being hit to now becoming the hitter.

Barr sees no such problems.

"I basically was doing the same thing last year: blocking," Barr said. "Tackling and blocking is very similar. You just got to bring a guy to the ground when you tackle him. So, I'm not worried about that at all."

Barr and his teammates will return to practice on Saturday at Spaulding Field at 9:30 a.m. All spring practices are open to the public.