Jared Barber isn't the fastest or biggest linebacker around. Standing just six feet and weighing in at 230 pounds, he would easily get lost in a linebacker convention, especially one of the big mike (middle) behemoths that populate today's game. He's been able to excel, though, by relying on a combination of grit, hard work and an innate understanding of the game. Only injury has kept him off the field (once for an entire season), but now his excellent career at West Virginia is coming to an end.
He is, in some ways in the midst of his best season, and one that was made more comfortable by the elevation of Tony Gibson to defensive coordinator. Although he was certainly productive under former coordinator Keith Patterson (now with Arizona State), he's playing more freely, and better able to utilize his strengths, in Gibson's 3-3-5.
"For me, playing mike plays to my strengths. I don't have to be the fastest guy out there," Barrber said. "You have to be smart to play mike. "[In the previous defense], I had to be out in space more, play cover two."
After sitting out the 2014 season following knee surgery and a bout with MRSA, Barber took to the move inside quickly. While he is still 20 tackles short of the 71 he put up in 2013, he has doubled his tackle for loss total to 10, and is better able to have an impact on more plays. He's also just three solo stops short of tying his season high in that category. A physical player, Barber is best suited for the contact mixer that occurs between the tackles, and it shows in his ability to shed blocks and get to the football.
Stats are the last thing on Barber's mind, though, as the days tick off toward his final game at West Virginia. And although he won't be on the team next year, he wants to get a win for the senior class in its last contest, and also set the tone for those returning in 2016.
Once the game is over, Barber will begin working out in the hopes of continuing his career as a professional. If that doesn't pan out, he's eyeing a spot on a NASCAR pit crew with Richard Childress Racing, which isn't a far-fetched dream. Former college athletes dot those teams, with their athleticism and strength fitting neatly into the requirements of those positions. Former WVU offensive lineman Tyler Rader did just that, and if a pro football career isn't in the cards for Barber, he plans to pursue that spot -- another of his passions while growing up.