Barber ready to become leader on WVU defense
Published: Friday, April 13, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 13, 2012 03:04
Every season, there seems to be one linebacker on the West Virginia football team who leads the way for the defense.
A few years back it was J.T. Thomas, last season it was Najee Goode. In 2012, with only two seniors on the linebacker corps, it’s likely that someone stepping into that leadership role will have to be a younger player.
And at this point in spring practice it looks like sophomore Jared Barber could fill that role quite nicely.
Barber played 12 games as a true freshman and learned from older players, like Goode, every step of the way.
"You should have at least one guy who, if somebody has a question or something, you go to that guy," Barber said. "Najee was that guy last year, and he did a really good job of helping me and leading me and easing me into the system.
"We’re just playing hard and playing together right now. (Finding a leader) will come with time."
The Mocksville, N.C., native used special teams to make a name for himself early in his freshman season.
He was named special teams champion after West Virginia’s win over Maryland, when he had two tackles. By the end of the season, he had found his way into the lineup, making his first career start against Pittsburgh.
That improvement continued throughout the Mountaineers’ final stretch toward a BCS appearance and he was rewarded with a start in the Orange Bowl.
He didn’t disappoint.
In West Virginia’s 70-33 victory, Barber finished with a career-high six tackles in his second start of the season.
"At the beginning of last year, I played special teams and I got in some on defense, but not too much," Barber said. "My head would spin and spin just trying to be perfect.
"Now I can think (on the field), but I can also just play, and that makes me more comfortable."
With the departure of four defensive coaches, including defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, Barber and the rest of the Mountaineer defense is adjusting to the new scheme that they’ll be running under co-defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson.
The switch to the 3-4 defense has been going well for Barber, but he admitted it was tough seeing the 3-3-5 scheme the Mountaineers go.
"That’s the reason I came here," Barber said. "I know things happen, things change. It’s a business. It’s not that big of a deal, though.
"We’re just trying to get in here and learn and watch film about everything."
Barber has impressed Patterson, who also works with
linebackers, through 11 practices this spring.
"He’s consistent with the way he approaches. He’s just a tough, hard-nosed kid," Patterson said. "I don’t think you can be a leader
unless you’re a guy that makes plays, so I challenge him to make plays. This system is linebacker-friendly, and you need to make plays (for the defense) to be successful."
With a little more than a week until the Gold-Blue Spring Game, Barber’s plan is to just keep doing what he’s been doing up to this point.
If that means he becomes the leader this group needs, so be it.
But if not, he’ll be fine with that, too.
"I’m just trying to gain the respect of everybody on the team, so if (the leader) is me, that’s great," he said. "I try to be a leader. I try to be somebody that people can look up to, but if I’m not, then I’ll look up to the guy who is.
"The more you get out there, it will definitely help."