In the Film Room: Anthony Barr

The state of California is absolutely loaded with premier talent. On Scout's recently released Top 250 there were 16 players from the state of California. Four of the Top 10 running backs in the country, according to Scout, are from the state of California.

Notre Dame already has a commitment from California's top prospect in Bishop O'Dowd standout Chris Martin. Loyola High School in Los Angeles is the home of Anthony Barr, who is one of the nation's top players, one of California's best, and arguably the most versatile player in the country. Whether you are looking for a running back, wide receiver, tight end, linebacker, or even defensive end, Barr is your man. It's anyone's guess where the standout back will end up playing in college or what position he'll play, but with his immense talent the odds are high that he'll be a standout.

This breakdown will be predominantly about Barr's ability as a running back. It's the position he plays in high school, it's a position many schools are recruiting him to play, and honestly it's a position I believe he could play at a high level. As a junior, against a relatively tough schedule, the Loyola back accounted for 1,890 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. What's surprising is that Barr is listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. Those are not the measurables you often expect to see from a standout running back.

Barr has a lean and athletic frame that will allow him to rip himself up, stay in the 225-240 range, and play a skill position like running back or tight end. His athletic frame is also solid enough to allow Barr to easily and naturally get past 250 which would allow him to play tight end, linebacker, or even defensive end.

Barr has good strength, but is far from a finished product. At this point his strength is more natural, and in order to maximize his talents Barr will need to develop in the weight room, especially his lower body. Barr plays with good power for the level he is at right now, but at the next level he'll have to learn to play a more powerful style. He must learn to drive his legs better, which will allow him to run through or over defenders at the next level. Barr does an excellent job of running through arm tackles and side tackles, but in order to run through defender at the next level he'll have to learn to play lower and drive. Barr's size makes him hard to bring down at the high school level, as he learns to play with better power and use his size more, he'll be a truly dominant force as a running back.

What makes Barr even more special is the athletic ability that is combined with his excellent size. He is a long-strider who has the speed to run away from defenders and rip off long runs. The agility of this 6-foot4, 225-pound standout is also rare. Barr has good foot quickness, which allows him to cut quickly into holes, get in and out of cuts quickly, and make defenders miss in the open field with a quick shake and go. This foot quickness, along with fluid hips and excellent balance, also allows Barr to be an excellent one cut and go prospect that can play in a zone scheme or a man/power scheme. Barr also possesses soft and natural hands, which allows him to be a dangerous receiving threat as well as a threat in the screen game. If he sticks as a running back Barr could be a dangerous screen player. He also has the athleticism and hands to motion out or line up at receiver, which would give his offensive coordinator even more options.

Barr also has excellent skills for a running back. He possesses good vision, which allows him to see the bounce lane as well as finding the cutback quickly. At times he even hits the cutback too quickly. Barr also has very good patience and does a good job of reading his blocks as well as allowing the blocking to properly set up before he explodes through the hole. He is also a decisive runner and as soon as he sees daylight he quickly bursts through the hole up to the second level. The Loyola high school star is also a good north-south style runner who doesn't waste a lot of time working side-to-side. He is always working towards the end zone and trying to get vertical.
Barr needs to be quicker and more aggressive attacking the line of scrimmage. He doesn't gain a lot of speed, momentum, and/or power when heading downhill between the tackles. The problem isn't a physical inefficiency; it's more of a schematic/technique issue. Barr lines up between 6 and 6 ½ yards from the line of scrimmage. If he were to attack the line at the proper speed he would get there too quickly, so he is forced to get downhill too slow. It also prevents him from really building up good momentum or power when running between the tackles. He can't run through defenders or make them miss if they get through the line quickly. This hurt him quite a bit against Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, CA). If he were to play deeper at 7 to 8 yards (as most backs do in college) he would be even more effective. This would allow him to attack the line more aggressively, build up more momentum, and make him even more dangerous.

Barr needs to be more efficient with his initial footwork as he false steps out of his initial stance. He also needs to learn to carry the football a bit tighter to his body. At this point he lets the ball get too far away from his body, which will make him susceptible to being stripped from behind or having the ball knocked out by an unexpected hit. Barr also runs a bit too high, which is especially dangerous for a runner with his length. If he wants to play running back in college, and stay healthy, he'll have to play with better pad level. This is also true as he engages defenders. He must learn to "dip and rip" as I used to tell my running backs. This is a move that Adrian Peterson has perfected. As defenders approach him on the second level or in the open field they will often go low, which is smart. Right now Barr struggles to make these defenders miss because he doesn't get that low. As defenders approach him, Barr will have to dip his shoulder into the defender and drive through them. This is a quick movement that will take some work to develop, but it can be taught and learned.

On top of this the Los Angeles, Calif. nativer also needs to develop his stiff arm. This is another way of making defenders miss who go low. Essentially what Barr needs to do is watch some clips of Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma. This is another move Peterson was good with. As defenders go low he needs to drive his staff arm down through them as he drives his legs. Both of these moves will make him very, very dangerous as a running back.

Barr has the athletic ability and talent to play running back, which is the only position I've seen him play. But his size, speed, agility, and soft hands would allow him to play wide receiver in the right offense. Add those traits to a frame that could gain significant size and strength and I can see Barr also transitioning to tight end. These same traits could also allow him to transition to defense, although I can't speak to how physical he would be as a defender. The reason isn't for any lack of ability, toughness, or attitude as Barr has all three of those traits; rather, it is simply for a lack of seeing him actually do it. His speed and agility would lend easily to being athletic enough to play sideline-to-sideline as a linebacker or as a speedy pass rusher as a defensive end. The 3-4 outside linebacker spot would really be an excellent spot for Barr, but at Notre Dame that is no longer an option.

Whoever lands Barr is landing more than just a versatile player, although where to play this young man is obviously going to be the first question that needs to be answered. But there is much more to Barr than just versatility. He's truly one of the most physically gifted and talented players in the country. I have yet to see a player in this class who combines the kind of size, strength, speed, and quickness that Barr has with his game. He's a difference maker, and the fact he can be a difference maker at so many positions makes him one of the nation's top all-around football players. Notre Dame has had great success the last few seasons pulling some of California's top players away from the West Coast schools. Being able to pull Barr away from Southern Cal and UCLA would give the Irish another California standout as well as landing one of the nation's premier talents.


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