Don't get me wrong, there are no other offensive players in the country I would rather have for WVU, but let me ask you this. Whatever happened to the "hard hitting" "smash mouth" players that Don Nehlen, Rich Rodriguez, Jeff Casteel, etc. incorporated into WVU football. WVU football used to be known for constantly coming at you with everything they got no matter what the outcome.
You don't see that type of mentality in the world of college football very much anymore, but there are very few of those special players out there and one of them, in my opinion, happens to be WVU sophomore linebacker Jared Barber.
You don't find much players out there like Barber, and he is flying under the radar coming into 2012. With all the hype surrounding the offense of WVU and the move to the Big 12, not much is said about the defensive side of the ball except the new scheme of the 3-4.
Another reason why Barber does not get talked about is because he simply didn't play much last year as a true freshman. What really impresses me though is what he did to step in the Orange Bowl and help conquer the explosive offense of Clemson. I recently talked to Barber and he had some interesting things to say to me.
ZACH LEFEVER: What was it like making such a big impact in college football when you guys beat Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl and how does it translate over to this season?
JARED BARBER: It was really like a dream come true to be honest with you. I couldn't have dreamed for a better freshman season personally. A really big goal for me was to come in and contribute as a freshman somehow and I am glad I could do that. It will give us more confidence for next year as we go into play the Big 12 and give us the confidence to not back down against those teams and focus on West Virginia football; playing how we play and not back down or shy down to anybody.
ZL That was your last game with former defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. How different is it now switching from a 3-3-5 to a more common 3-4 type defense?
JB It's going to be a lot different compared to the 3-3-5. In the 3-3-5, we came straight downhill every play and meet them at the line of scrimmage. This year we're on top of things and letting things develop. I like the change and I think it's going to be good for everybody.
ZL What type of defense do you prefer to play in and why?
JB Well I came here to play in the 3-3-5 and was really excited to play in it and learn under Coach Casteel, but I understand football is a business and I know things change and people change and you just have to go along with it. I'm ok with the switch and I think it fits me really well.
ZL How different is it now from having a single defensive coordinator to having co defensive coordinators in Keith Patterson and Joe Deforest?
JB As of right now in the spring, I didn't see too much difference.
ZL Coming into 2012, WVU has a lot of hype on its side. How have you been preparing for this upcoming season?
JB Working as hard as I possibly can and working hard in the weight room. Conditioning is a big thing I've focused on this summer so I can play every down if I'm allowed to. I've been working hard and know the Big 12 is a different conference, but it doesn't matter who were playing. I'm going to play really hard and try to be the best athlete I can possibly be.
ZL What are your individual expectations along with your expectations for the team as you head into this season?
JB Team wise, nothing less than a Big 12 Championship for sure. We've been busting our butts in the weight room and the guys have been really close this summer. I think this should be a really impressive season for West Virginia. Personally, I just want to give my best every play and I want to earn Big 12 honors and get as many honors as I possibly can, but I'm not going to focus on those, I'm just going to focus on winning and do what's best for my team.
ZL I like to compare you to Pat Angerer from the Indianapolis Colts. Do you picture yourself playing in the NFL some day?
JB Growing up as a kid, I've worked extremely hard even at a young age. The image of me being in the NFL has always been in the back of my mind and has always been a dream of mine. I love the game of football more than anything and I definitely want to pursue the NFL if I'm able to do so injury free.
ZL How different is it playing in a place where a whole state supports you in West Virginia compared to growing up and playing in a place like North Carolina?
JB It's huge. You might see a couple Marshall stickers, but that's like 1 in every 200 people. It's really big. If I go back home to North Carolina, I will see NC State, ECU, NC, Wake Forest fans, but in West Virginia, everyone is about the Mountaineers. We've got the best fans I think anyone could ask for.
I would like to thank Jared for taking time to do this for me and mywv.net. Expect to see big things from Barber this season as he steps into a starting linebacker role as only a sophomore. Even though Barber seemed like your prototype 3-3-5 linebacker, it's going to be interesting to see how he adapts under the new 3-4 defense of West Virginia.