Recruiting: Barnes' commitment to UCLA came somewhat out of the blue as he didn't' even have an offer from the Bruins heading in to his unofficial visit over the weekend. There was a lot of buzz beforehand, however, that an offer from UCLA would put them at the top of his board, but we didn't see a quick commitment coming so fast. The 'backer had developed a very good relationship with new UCLA Linebackers Coach Scott White and that, along with a depth chart with very little linebacker depth put the Bruins over the top.
What to Like: There's much to like with Barnes, starting with his versatility. At a very solid 6-2, 220 pounds, he has the ability to play inside or outside as a SAM 'backer. He has the size, toughness and hitting ability to play inside but the athleticism, pass-rushing skills and quickness to play on the outside. When you look at his body, he's not close to filling out and could easily grow another inch and hold another 15 pounds or so with ease. He has made rapid improvement in the last year in terms of his ability to play in space, drop in coverage and especially in his overall athleticism. He's a smart kid who understands the game, can read and react very quickly and is a natural leader on the field. He's a very bright, well-spoken player, a good student, a great teammate, well-liked among his peers and his upside is tremendous at the next level.
Areas to improve: As Barnes matures physically and grows into his body, he'll need to continue to improve his overall speed and explosiveness as well. He clocked a 4.88-40 at the recent Opening Regional camp, which isn't bad at all (especially on a bit of a slow day) but it is an area he can continue to work on. Once he gets in to a college weight program and begins to develop some more of his fast-twitch muscles, we can see him taking his game to another level.
Overall Analysis: Barnes was a huge pickup for UCLA for a number of reasons. For starters, he fills a big need since linebacker depth, especially inside, was lacking. He's a local player who had a USC offer and early on in the process, and the Trojans appeared the team to beat. So, it's significant that UCLA beat out its crosstown rivals for him. It was also big for new Linebackers Coach Scott White to show he can compete for top players in the region, and landing Barnes could be the first of a big linebacker haul for him in 2016. Add in the fact that Barnes is a very talented player who looks underrated as a top 150 player nationally and you can see why his commitment, especially this early in the process, was so big.