MORGANTOWN - West Virginia linebacker Jared Barber knows all about the Big 12.That might read a little odd, considering he hails from Davie High in Mocksville, N.C. But . . ."As a little kid my favorite team was Texas," he said. "So that's going to be pretty interesting."OK, so maybe he doesn't know everything about the league. But he knows enough to comment on WVU's move from the Big East to the Big 12.
"I know it's big-boy football," Barber said. "I know the big-name teams, but we're a big-name team too, so . . ."So soon it will be on for West Virginia, and Barber will be a key. Of late, he's been playing the Will, or weak-side inside, linebacker spot. He's listed No. 1 on the latest depth chart."It's kind of different, to be honest with you," Barber said. "I've been dead over the center at the [middle linebacker] position ever since third grade. It's different getting out over tackles and guards. I'm just trying to learn and do my best."Barber is like many on the defensive side of the ball in Morgantown. He's experienced change. Change in coaches. Change in the defensive scheme.
A 6-foot-1, 230-pound sophomore, Barber hit WVU expecting to play in the middle of the old 3-3-5 odd stack. He did so as a true freshman, playing in 12 games and starting two. It's what he was recruited to do."To be honest, yeah, [it was]," Barber said. "With [ex-defensive coordinator Jeff] Casteel, that's why I came here. But I know things happen; things change. It's not that big of a deal."Barber has handled it so well that many of his teammates are calling him a leader this spring - even as a true sophomore."It's a big compliment to me," Barber said. "It humbles me. I just try to work hard and play hard, be that leader."
That doesn't mean, however, there hasn't been confusion."It's a lot different [moving to a 3-4 scheme]," Barber said. "In the beginning, my head was spinning. I didn't really know what to expect. Everything was new. Now I know all the [new assistants]. I'm in the system. I feel a lot more comfortable, for sure."He said his teammates feel the same.
"I think we're getting comfortable with the new defense," Barber said. "Obviously there's some stuff we all need to work on. I think it's coming along pretty well."The linebacker pointed to one noticeable difference. "Being patient," Barber said. "In the 3-3-5, you try to get downhill and smack somebody every play. In this, you try to be patient and try to scrape off the top of things, stuff like that."It frees you up a lot. We get in the four-front a lot. It's not like the 3-3-5, where you have three down linemen. It allows you to run a little bit and keeps you clean."He knows, though, the Big 12 will be a challenge."It's going to be a whole lot more physical," Barber said. "We're going to be expected to play a whole lot more downs compared to the Big East. We're going to have to be more conditioned and play a lot more bodies."
It's one of the many changes Barber has experienced in less than a year of college football. "Things can change," said the sophomore. "It's a business. You can't really bet on something happening. You just have to go with it and do your best."Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.