UCLA Bruins outside linebacker Anthony Barr has absolutely exploded since the start of the 2012 season when he switched positions from running back. In the short time he’s been playing defense he’s racked up an impressive 130 tackles, 34.5 for a loss and 19.5 sacks. He’s gone from a mediocre running back to the top outside linebacking prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft. And this weekend against the Washington Huskies Barr will once again have a chance to increase his already soaring draft stock.
The Huskies have had an up and down season, and injuries haven’t helped. Still, they have a three-headed monster between their QB (Keith Price), RB (Bishop Sankey) and TE (Austin Seferian-Jenkins), who’ve combined for a whopping 4,374 yards of total offense.
Barr will have a good opportunity in this matchup to highlight three phases of his stellar game.
First, he’ll have an opportunity to show his coverage skills against a huge, athletic, playmaking tight end in Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins is not only an elite pass blocker who could give Barr a hard time getting to Price, but he’s very good at separating and finding the seam. Barr is solid in zone coverage but will need to match Seferian-Jenkins’ physicality play for play.
The second aspect will be stopping the run against Sankey, who’s third nationally in rushing yards with 1,305, to go along with his 13 TDs, which is good for fifth in the country. Sankey is powerfully built tailback who can both pound it inside as well as cut it outside. Barr’s job will be making sure Sankey doesn’t get outside the hashes for a big gain. Sankey can be very elusive at times, and Barr will need to take good angles and wrap up with consistency.
The third aspect should be the easiest for Barr: getting after Price. Pass rushing is Barr’s forte, and there may not be a better pass-rushing linebacker in all of college football. Price isn’t known as a primary rushing threat, but he’s still got above-average speed (4.7) for the position and has a good pocket presence. Considering how poorly the Huskies blocked Stanford OLB Trent Murphy, who had two sacks against Washington earlier this season, Barr could be in store for a huge game.
Will his performance in this game have a major impact on his draft stock? No, not a major impact, but after he struggled against Arizona (the first game he finished with zero tackles) he’ll be looking to get back on track. This will be an opportunity for Barr to show scouts his ability to bounce back from a disappointing performance.