University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins
San Pedro, California
Loyola High School
Much of the talk leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball is centered on South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Buffalo's hybrid rush end/linebacker Khalil Mack, and rightfully so, but when professionals talk about the most athletic defensive player, Anthony Barr shines above all the rest.
Usually, when a player is asked to change positions midway through a college career, it does not bode well for his professional aspirations, especially when being moved to the opposite side of the ball. However, in Barr's case, a consummate team player who performed admirably as a blocking fullback was suddenly transformed into one of the most dominant players in the game.
Among the elite trio of defensive players headlining this year's draft, Barr matches up well vs. the rest of the competition. During his two seasons as an outside linebacker, he made 149 tackles, compared to Mack's 194 and Clowney's 94 during that same span. His nine forced fumbles equaled the total that Mack compiled during his last two seasons, while Clowney produced four turnovers.
Barr recorded 40.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, just inching past the 40 stops accrued by Mack and 35 tackles in the backfield by Clowney. The UCLA Bruin also produced 23.5 sacks, with Clowney next with 16 and Mack trailing with 13.5. Barr recorded 102 solo tackles on defense, just shy of Mack's total of 108, with Clowney registering 104. His four fumble recoveries tied Clowney, with Mack checking in with three recoveries.
Among active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision players, Barr tied Mack and Jonathan Dowling of Western Kentucky for the national lead in forced fumbles per game (0.33). He is third in that group with an average of 1.5 tackles-for-loss per game, while his lost yardage figure of 214 is 11th-best. He is tied with Demarcus Lawrence of Boise State for second, as both averaged 0.87 quarterback sacks per game. His 23.5 total sacks rank 10th and his sack lost yardage total of 136 is 21st, attaining those numbers in half of the games performed by others ahead of him in both of those categories.
The Los Angeles native attended Loyola High School in the Pico-Union neighborhood, where he was an All-State running back after rushing for 1,890 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior. He then, however, missed virtually all of his senior season with a broken ankle. He was also unable to participate in the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, to which he was invited. Regarded as a four-star recruit, Barr was listed as the eighth-best prospect out of the state of California.
Scout.com placed him 10th on its national linebacker list. The Super Prep All-American was considered the 22nd-best overall prospect in the West by that recruiting service. The consensus four-star football product also lettered four seasons in track.
With offers from dozens of schools, Barr narrowed his decision down to Notre Dame and UCLA, before choosing the Bruins on Jan. 21, 2010. Many had thought he would join the Fighting Irish program, where his father, Tony Brooks, was a standout tailback and a fourth-round selection by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1992 draft.
Perhaps keeping up the "family business," Barr was considered to be more valuable to the UCLA program as a running back when he joined the team in 2010. He would go on to start four of the 12 games he appeared in, winning the John Boncheff Jr. Memorial Award as UCLA's Rookie of the Year. Used mostly for his blocking ability, the then 228-pound fullback gained 29 yards on six carries, as he also caught nine balls for 66 yards coming out of the backfield.
Barr added 10 pounds to his frame prior to his sophomore season. He started seven times at fullback, compiling 25 yards with a touchdown on nine rushing attempts. He also scored and gained 16 yards after pulling down three tosses, but right knee arthroscopic surgery would sideline for three October clashes vs. Stanford, Washington State and Arizona.
Barr's shift to outside linebacker in 2012 was an immediate success, as he received All-American and All-Pac-12 Conference honors. Starting all 14 games on the right side, he recorded a career-high 83 tackles, second-best on the team. He led the squad with 13.5 sacks and 21.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, as both figures were third-best in the league. He also broke up five passes and caused four fumbles.
The following season, Barr was a finalist for the Butkus, Lombardi and Bednarik Awards, along with being named a consensus All-American and unanimous All-Pac 12 Conference choice. He led the league with four fumble recoveries, placing second with five forced fumbles, as he was in on 65 tackles. He again led the Bruins with 10 sacks and produced 20 stops behind the line of scrimmage, which ranked second in the Pac-12 and ninth in the nation.
Having already impressed teams with his two seasons on the defensive side of the ball, Barr further cemented his place among the elite draft prospects with a solid overall performance at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. Feeling that he had to validate himself further, he opened quite a few eyes during UCLA's March Pro Day event, running a scorching 4.44-second 40-yard dash.
Barr started 37-of-51 games at UCLA that included his first 10 starting assignments as a fullback and his final 27 appearances as the right outside linebacker…Made 151 tackles (103 solos) with 23.5 sacks for minus 136 yards, 40.5 stops for losses of 214 yards and six quarterback pressures…Caused nine fumbles, recovered four others and deflected ... Six passes…Gained 54 yards with a touchdown on 15 carries (3.6 ypc), 82 yards with another score on 12 receptions (6.83 ypc) and 10 yards on one punt return.