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Alex Barron: Top pick, fast track
Alex Barron: Top pick, fast track
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Saturday, Apr. 30 2005
A little more than a year ago, Rams general manager Charley Armey was watching
film of several University of Miami defenders in preparation for the draft.
On one particular tape, the Hurricanes were playing Florida State. After
watching Seminoles offensive tackle Alex Barron destroy Miami linebackers
Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams on play after play, Armey turned to Rams'
scouting assistant Brad Holmes and said, "Is this your cousin?"
Holmes, in his second year with the Rams, was a pass rusher of some repute a
few years back for North Carolina A&T. Before his junior season in 2000, a
season in which he would register 8 1/2 sacks, Holmes decided to see what
cousin Alex had as a pass blocker.
Barron already had built a football reputation at Wilkinson High in Orangeburg,
S.C. One college recruiting service, Prep Star, had him rated as the third-best
offensive lineman in the country.
Holmes and his cousin went out in Barron's backyard for some one-on-one pass
"I couldn't get around him," Holmes said.
Not many can, which explains why the Rams made Barron their first-round pick,
No. 19 overall, in the NFL draft last week. Coach Mike Martz wasted little time
"We're handing him the starting job at right tackle," Martz said Friday. "It's
Then, in an unusual move, Martz made a request to the media at Rams rookie
"The one thing I'd ask all of you with Alex is to have patience," Martz said.
"Because he's going to have some tough moments. But he is our right tackle.
We're making that commitment to him. We're trying to get him ready as quickly
as we can.
"I know he's going to be scrutinized closely. I know he'll be nervous. This is
a big deal to him. ... Bear in mind, two, three years from now, I think we'll
have a real special player."
Barron was a two-time consensus All-American at Florida State and was among
three finalists for the Outland Trophy last season. But Barron did not expect
after getting drafted to be named a starter in April.
"I was overwhelmed by it," the soft-spoken Barron said Saturday. "I was kind of
shocked a little bit. But they believe I can get the job done, and I'm just
going to try to do my best to help the team."
Barron has many physical attributes that separate him from the pack. But it
begins and ends with his amazing wingspan. From one outstretched arm to the
other, the tape measure reads 7 feet, 6 inches. That, NBA fans, equals the
height of Houston Rockets center Yao Ming.
"I have a couple of friends at Florida State that kind of joke with me about
that a little bit," Barron said.
That kind of reach can be a big help around the house.
"Top shelf. Top of the refrigerator, and all that," Barron said.
For opposing pass rushers, that kind of reach can be a nightmare.
"I don't know of anybody with that type of reach," said Martz. "That's
significant in terms of pass blocking if you're on the edge. If I can get my
hands on you, it's just like (putting) your hand on the head of your little
brother while he's swinging. It's that type of deal. It frustrates the pass
rushers with the shorter arms, and they can't into you."
Now, throw in the fact that Barron is a lean 6-7, 320 pounds, and runs a 40 in
the sub 4.9-second area. It's a scary set of skills.
"The thing that sticks out is he's just such a tremendous athlete for a really
large person," said John Benton, who coaches Rams offensive linemen along with
John Matsko. "The things he can do, most big linemen can't do."
On the football field, this manifests itself in Barron's ability to get out in
space and block linebackers several yards off the line of scrimmage. He has the
agility to sustain blocks on the move against shorter, faster defenders. When
he gets those long arms locked onto a defensive end, it's over. When he gets
off-balance and a pass rusher starts to get around him, Barron has the
quickness to recover.
Barron's father was his high school coach at Wilkinson. His grandfather used to
coach high school football in Indiana and South Carolina.
He has two uncles who played in the NFL: cornerback Luther Bradley, who played
for Detroit from 1978-81; and offensive tackle Melvin Holmes, who played for
Pittsburgh from 1971-73. And, of course, cousin Brad.
But Barron isn't without critics. Some have termed him an enigma, a player who
is too laid-back on the football field and takes plays off. Some say he needs
more aggressiveness. Some say he needs more lower-body strength to combat the
bull rush. Or more strength and bulk, period.
(More than one Rams coach wondered out loud if Barron was truly 320 pounds when
he showed up for minicamp. He looks much leaner. Sure enough, when Barron got
on the scale, he weighed 320.)
Barron says the criticism doesn't bother him.
"I don't really take offense to it," he said. "I know and I believe that when I
step on the field, I give 100 percent all the time."
Nonetheless, such concerns among NFL teams may have contributed to the fact
that Barron was still available for the Rams at No. 19 overall. Original
projections had Barron rated as the top tackle in the draft and a possible top
Barron concedes he was "a little bit" disappointed to last until No. 19. But
such concerns quickly faded when he arrived at Rams Park for minicamp. He is
getting a crash course on NFL football. Everything from technique work to the
wide array of Rams pass-blocking schemes to the peculiarities of playing right
Barron played the majority of the time on the left side at Florida State.
By Saturday afternoon, Barron's head was spinning. According to fellow rookie
Claude Terrell, an offensive guard from New Mexico, Rams blockers were being
exposed to 35 pass protection blocking sets this weekend. For comparison's
sake, Terrell said he had five pass-blocking sets to learn at New Mexico.
"There's so much more you've got to learn," Barron said. "So many different
things you've got to do. There's some great teaching here, so I'm just hoping
to grasp some type of concept so I can help the team."
Obviously, the Rams hope that takes place sooner rather than later.
"When he has issues in protection, it's just a matter of technique," Martz
said. "It's not a question of his aggressiveness, or his toughness. When he
gets in a jam, it's all centered around footwork and pass sets, and punch, and
all those kinds of things that our coaches will resolve.
"What he's capable of doing is playing at the highest level physically. He's a
long ways from that. He needs to learn an awful lot. Can he get there?
Absolutely. Will he? I don't know. If he does, then we've got one of the better
ones in the league."
Alex Barron: By The Numbers
Armspan: 7' 6"
Speed: 40 in 4.9 seconds
ClanRam ModCast: Episode Two
Rams Discussion Right at Your Fingertips!
Calling Jackie Slater!
Well, like I keep saying: let's get Jackie Slater to visit us this preseason.
Re: Alex Barron: Top pick, fast track
Nice post Nick this guy is gonna rock.:tough: :ramlogo: :ramlogo: :ramlogo:My heart beats crazy and my blood runs wild