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  1. #1
    eldfan's Avatar
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    It's time for Barron to blossom

    When he'd leave the modest ranch house on Hillcrest Avenue in Orangeburg, S.C., young Alex Barron usually was headed for the outdoor basketball court nearby.

    It was — and still is — his favorite sport. He was good at it, too.

    Good enough to average a double-double at Wilkinson High, good enough to be invited to walk on at Florida State, and good enough, the 6-foot-7, 302-pound Barron insists, to have made a splash in college, and possibly the NBA. MORE RAMS

    "Truth be told, I think I would've been OK," he said. "I'm not here to say I would've been an all-star for 10 years or anything like that. But I know I'd have done pretty good in college."

    After a pause, Barron added softly, "But that's not the road I chose."

    In reality, the road chose him. It's led him to a new position — he's the Rams' first new full-time left tackle since 1997 — at the best possible time. Barron, 26, is in the final season of the original five-year, $9.2 million deal he signed in 2005, when the Rams took him in the first round of the draft.

    If his play this season suggests that he could rank among the league's top linemen, Barron, who became the Rams' first-team right tackle in his rookie season, stands to cash in — big time. Left tackles, charged with protecting a righthanded quarterback's blind side, are among the game's most valued, and best-compensated, performers.

    "He's talented, and he deserves it," his kid sister, Lasaundra, insisted. Barron doesn't feel entitled, though.

    "I try not to put any added pressure just because of what year it is for me," he said. "But I'm not going to lie and say I haven't thought about it. Why wouldn't I want to be in the conversation with the top tackles in the league? That'd be stupid."

    HOOP DREAMS

    They still talk about "the play" in Orangeburg, a quiet, working-class hamlet of about 12,500 near the center of the state. The basketball fieldhouse at Wilkinson High was packed as the Bruins took on archrival Irmo.

    A teammate missed a free throw, and Barron soared after the loose ball. Here's how Barron described what happened next to The State, the newspaper of Columbia, S.C.: "I got the rebound, kind of squirmed and went up and let it go. I kind of turned around, so it was almost like a 360, but not all in the air."

    The climax was a rim-rattling slam dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy. "The place exploded. They about took the roof off," said former coach Geb Runager, who was in the stands.

    Barron's father, also named Alex (they have different middle names), was Wilkinson's coach. "It was just unreal," he said. "I looked at my assistant coach and said, 'He could've been doing that all along.' ...

    "I just thought he pretty much could dominate a basketball game. But then again, when kids play for their father, you don't always get the optimum out of them."

    Basketball was Barron's fancy before he ever thought about football. He was always the tallest among his peers, and he enjoyed the intense but friendly competition on the playgrounds. Plus, he usually came out on top.

    The game came easily to each of the three Barron children. Zachary, 24, is a 6-6 forward at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., and Lasaundra, 20, is a 6-2 forward at Claflin College in Orangeburg. Their mother, Lucinda, is a professor at South Carolina State.

    Football became an option for Alex in middle school, although the hulking seventh-grader didn't sign up right away.

    "Finally one day that August, (Alex) came to me and said he needed $10 for the physical" exam, his father recalled. "I gave him the $10, but I sure didn't realize he was going to be that good."

    FOOTBALL BECKONS

    By his junior year in high school, Barron was drawing offers from most of the top college programs. He considered Georgia, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Southern California and Tennessee before settling on the Seminoles.

    By then, he'd realized that football was the road to take.

    "I saw it as a good opportunity to go to college, meet some new people, get a little football in," Barron said. "If I didn't have a scholarship, I wouldn't have been at Florida State; there's no way."

    After a brief, final foray with basketball his freshman year, Barron turned fully to football, recognizing that he might be able to make a career of it. "I let (basketball) go, and sometimes I think I shouldn't have," he said. "But I'm past that now."

    A two-time consensus All-American who played mostly on the left side at Florida State and possessed off-the-chart measurables — 4.82 speed in the 40 and a 38-inch vertical leap among them — Barron was coveted by NFL scouts. He fell to the Rams at No. 19 overall largely because some teams felt that the shy, reserved Barron lacked the proper fervor for the game.

    "He's soft-spoken, doesn't say much; that's just part of his personality, and I think people kind of misread him sometimes," his father said. "But you can't play the game for as many years as he has and at that level without being competitive.

    "And he's very competitive. He doesn't like to get beat."

    MOVING TO THE LEFT

    Chris Long, the Rams' second-year defensive end, can attest to that. He's been going against Barron regularly in training camp.

    "He's really athletic and he's got super-long arms, so he can reach out and get his hands on you immediately," Long said. "It's hard to get off at that point, even though he's not the heaviest guy in the world."

    Barron, who played 15 games on the left side in 2007 after Orlando Pace was injured, "looks more comfortable" there, running back Steven Jackson said. "I think Alex is a natural left tackle."

    Still, the move is more challenging than some might imagine, Barron pointed out. "It's a whole different technique, a whole different balance set," he said. "It's footwork, hips, hands — it's like the complete opposite."

    The reports are encouraging, though. "I think he's been pretty good; no major issues," coach Steve Spagnuolo said.

    "Well," said the elder Barron, "he does have a little problem with the false starts."

    Barron was flagged early in the Aug. 7 scrimmage, drawing groans from the large crowd at Lindenwood University. But he was penalty-free in the preseason opener (he didn't play Friday night vs. Atlanta because of a swollen knee) and hasn't false-started much during training camp.

    "He's coming into that veteran status, where there's really not much the defense can throw at him that he hasn't seen before," seventh-year lineman Adam Goldberg said. "Around this time, you see that for the elite tackles, the game starts to slow down for them."

    And can Barron emerge as an elite tackle?

    "I'm not one to compare," he said. "I'll just let everybody else say what they've got to say. I don't really have too much to say about all that."

    But to Long, it's a slam dunk.

    "I got to see some great left tackles last year, and I really do feel like Alex is a rising star in the league at that spot," Long said. "I feel like this is going to be a breakout year for him, where people start to realize this is a premier left tackle."

    :ramlogo:

  2. #2
    TorontoRams is offline Registered User
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    Re: It's time for Barron to blossom

    Mentally I think Barron is finished. Jason Smith is going to be our LT for the next 12 years. I like the way Spags is handling this all, Jason Smith is incredibly raw, but his upside is incredible and to throw him to the wolves in his rookie season would be suicide. The kid never put his hand on the ground at Baylor from what I know. Anyways, I think this is Barron's last season, he'll either hurt himself again or get Bulger killed and then that'll be that, he'll be looking for work in Oakland or something.

  3. #3
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    Re: It's time for Barron to blossom

    Not ready to give up on Barron. We need all the talent we can get on the OLine.

    Go Rams

  4. #4
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    Re: It's time for Barron to blossom

    Much like the QB, an offensive lineman needs cohesiveness on the line to have success.
    Alot of people are quick point out Barrons missteps, truth is, Alex has really blossomed since coming to the Rams. Alex had a solid season last year, as he cut down on the penalties and he rarely missed a snap. He now plays at his natrual position, now that Pace is gone.
    If only the Rams can keep a consistant and solid frontline (Smith, Bell, Brown, Incognito, Barron, McMichael) a better light will surely shine on AB.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  5. #5
    Mooselini's Avatar
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    Re: It's time for Barron to blossom

    Agreed. We need to have Barron work his hardest out there. Who knows, maybe under good coaching (Spags) he can develope into a good player. We can only hope.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    Devaney, if you care about this team... fire the offensive coordinator!!!!

  6. #6
    Dwight Frye's Avatar
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    Re: It's time for Barron to blossom

    I'm w/ Dominating D, not ready to give up yet .... (the ETERNAL optimist?)

    Come on, son. We Really ..... REALLY need ya.

  7. #7
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    Re: It's time for Barron to blossom

    Barron shined in 07 when he took over the left side when Pace went down in the first game. Now I fully expect him to shine again now that he's playing his real position. He's not built for the right side. He's too small and not strong enough for the bull rushers that populate the left side of a defense.

    Smith on the other side is big enough and nasty enough to be perfect on the right side, which is why we picked him in my opinion. Of course, he can man the left side as well, but I think he's destined to be a top right tackle bookending with Barron on the left.

    Smith's big, strong and a run blocker primarily, just like a prototype right tackle. Meanwhile Barron is lithe(for a 300 pounder) and quick with huge arms, and is great at pass blocking. Personally I feel we drafted hoping that Barron shines this year and I bet that he does, just watch.

  8. #8
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    Re: It's time for Barron to blossom

    I agree with TorontoRams. Justin Smith will be the man.

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