Steelers Draft Prospect Interview: LB/DE Antwan Barnes
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Sunday, April 15, 2007
By Paul Eide
Steelers Fever Columnist
Seven weeks ago, Antwan Barnes was a small school player that was relatively unknown in most NFL Draft circles. But after a dominating performance at the NFL Combine, Barnes stock has been quickly rising among both draft experts and NFL player scouts.
After weighing in at 6-1, 240 pounds, Barnes ran a 4.43 (second fastest among linebackers), had a 10’2″ broad jump (third best) and led all linebackers with 31 reps of 225 pounds.
Over the last two years the Florida International product has accumulated 17 sacks in 23 games, adding 38 tackles for loss, playing both defensive end and linebacker. Currently viewed as a first day selection, Barnes has been projected to go anywhere from the middle of the second round to the beginning of the fourth, meaning that he could be on the radar for a Steelers team that has five picks in the first four rounds and needs a pass rusher with the ability to play either defensive end or outside linebacker.
Steelers Fever – How have things changed for you since your performance at the Combine?
Antwan Barnes – “More coaches calling, that’s for sure, but outside of that much it’s pretty much the same. The first time I came through where all the coaches and scouts are located (at the Combine) a lot of coaches didn’t even talk to me. But right after I ran that 40, they were like ‘wow’, and I met a lot of coaches from then on. I knew what I could do and going into the Combine I just wanted to have fun and do my best while I was there. Not many people have the opportunity to do this (go to the Combine), so I got the opportunity and I took advantage of it.
SF – Any indication on whether you’ll play the 3-4 or 4-3 at the next level?
AB – “So far I’ve been contacted by teams who run both. I’ve got a visit tomorrow with Atlanta and then after that I have one with Pittsburgh. Those teams run good 3-4 defenses that I would like to be a part of, especially Pittsburgh. After that I have a meeting with Indianapolis who runs a 4-3 and I’ve actually talked with Tampa Bay and Detroit about playing either defensive end or outside linebacker, as well as the Colts.
SF – Do you have a preference to play either inside linebacker in the 3-4 or outside linebacker in a 4-3?
AB – “I see myself as a rush backer and both systems can use that, so I don’t really prefer one over the other. I’m a player who can get after the QB or drop into the flat and cover a lot of ground. I have no problem playing inside or outside and I can adjust to any defensive scheme. The teams I’ve talked to so far have been mainly 3-4 teams but because I can play both (either 3-4 or 4-3) other teams have shown interest.”
SF- Was being from a small school a knock on you that teams mentioned during the Combine?
AB – “Not really. On our schedule we played a couple of big name schools (Maryland, Alabama, University of Miami) and I was able to show up and play well. I was disappointed we didn’t do that well as a team but what I did against the big schools was really good. It’s kind of hard being from a small school but FIU is a five year old program on the rise. So, I just wanted to come out and let them know there is talent there.”
SF – At the combine you did the most bench press reps of 225 of any linebacker. How does strength in the bench press transfer to ‘football strength’?
AB – “As far as getting O-line man off of you it’s very important. Extending your arms to get those linemen off of you I think is the main part and to show you can handle a guy one on one and not be taken out of the play.”
SF – If you had to compare your style of play to anyone in the NFL, who would it be?
AB – “Terrell Suggs. He’s a great player who is versatile and helps his teams in many ways.”
SF – Have any teams mentioned to you their plans on drafting you and which round they may do it in?
AB – Not really. It’s pretty hard to get any real information about what’s going to happen because everyone has an opinion and they want to keep their strategy secret. That’s the worst part about the draft, just the waiting; Not knowing who wants you or where to expect to be selected. All I can really do at this point is stay in shape because camp starts right after the Draft.”
SF – Any plans for draft day?
AB – “I’m having a little party at my Aunties house and I told her don’t expect to see me too much because I’m going to be upstairs by myself the whole time, in the room watching TV. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”