UCLA got a late Christmas present when junior linebacker Anthony Barr announced on December 31 that he would not be entering the 2013 NFL Draft and instead would be returning for his senior year.
Barr was named to the All-Pac-12 first team and was an honorable mention on the Pac-12 All-Academic team. He had 21.5 tackles for losses—good for a national ranking of No. 7—and was tied for the second-most sacks (13.5) in FBS.
Born in South Bend, IN, Barr received scholarship offers from elite schools across the country including Notre Dame. His father Tony played fullback at Notre Dame and was a fourth-round draft pick for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1992.
At 6-4, 235 pounds, Barr looks every bit the part of an NFL linebacker but he won't turn 21 until March 18. Barr weighed his options heavily and decided to return to UCLA for one more year and yet many may question why this All-American (AP, second team) would not forgo his final year at UCLA.
The kid's a stud, so why shouldn't he go?
Barr has only played the linebacker position at the college level for one year. He was recruited as an athlete by UCLA (he was ranked the No. 1 athlete by both Tom Lemming and MaxPreps) but played on the Bruins' offense prior to last year's breakout season.
In his first year, Barr played in all 12 games with four starts—he played primarily as a running back/ fullback but was also a receiving target. In 2011, Barr started seven games at fullback. It was in 2012 that he was switched to linebacker and it is at this position where Barr's natural ability has been readily apparent.
Still, with only one year's worth of Division 1 experience at linebacker, another year certainly wouldn't hurt him. Barring serious injury, Barr could increase his draft stock to a locked first-rounder although some NFL draft sites have noted his increased stock status for the 2013 NFL Draft. There are also some big names on the 2013 NFL Draft board that would probably be called before him: Manti Te'o, Jarvis Jones and Star Lotulelei, to name a few.
Barr is an outstanding pass-rusher but it wouldn't hurt for him to add another year of experience—he could improve on defending the run. There is also his age that comes into play. He would be 21 years old if he were to be drafted this year but that's awfully young to be handling such a large amount of money—all too often we've seen what money can do to a young man who isn't mature enough to know how to manage it.
He's a smart young man who obviously values his education and the UCLA degree that comes with his staying for a final year. Barr most likely had some long conversations with his family about what life is like in the NFL—it's a business and quite different from Division 1 football.
Anthony Barr wants his degree—that has to be respected—and he's content to fully experience the best four years of his life.
His senior year could guarantee him even more money when he enters the draft, but if that whole NFL thing doesn't work out after a few years, he'll have money in the bank and a college degree in hand.
Barr's decision shows wisdom beyond his years.