Mark Barron

SS Alabama 

6-2, 218, 

 

 

 

Nice Mix of Smarts, Leadership, and Athleticism. 

By TOM

Mark Barron is a very unique talent. He might be the closest player we’ve seen to the new Strong Safety. As teams needs to defend the pass more than the the Strong Safety is being phased out of the game. The value of the SS is dropping as well. Barron will drop in the Draft, not just because of double hernia surgery, but because the value of SS has reached an all-time low. The first and almost only way to judge Safeties now is what they do in the passing game. A SS is shifting to what the old FS was, and the FS is looking more and more like a 3rd Corner. 

He can be a force in the Box, but the Strong Safeties had better be able to run and cover deep. He can do both. He plays a lot of Cover Two, and Cover One were he is the last line of defense. He understands his responsibilities, and that of every one else in the Secondary. With me, I kinda learned it kinda fast. But I was learning different positions. I was learning three positions at one time. With me, I was learning it, but at the same time, I was getting some things mixed up, like I would be at one position thinking about my responsibility at another position. That’s what made it more difficult for me, but I don’t believe a person could learn that defense in under a year.

He is a leader who will run the Secondary for the coaches on the field in a few years. "Even though he's one of those guys who doesn't say much, when he does say something, he's probably one of the most respected guys on our team," Saban said. "And I think he has a presence about him that is felt by the players around him all the time."

His main question has been does he have the hips to turn in run in coverage. I think he has shown unequivocally on Tape that he can. When he plays in the Box, his primary responsibility is often to cover the RB coming out of the backfield. He has a lot of experience covering the RB, and he has shown he has the hips and speed to do it well.

He also will line up in the Slot and cover the inside Wide Receiver. He has shown he can turn when the WR cuts, and still make a play on the ball. That is a very difficult thing for any Safety to do. He plays his position so well, and knows when he has to protect the outside and help inside. He knows were he can cheat, and were his mates are suppose to be on the field.

Another thing the new Strong Safety has to be able to do is cover the Tight Ends down the Seam. He has the size and hips to cover tight ends.  He wasn’t asked to cover TE a lot, but he did show he could do it in limited reps.

The most interesting aspect of Barron is that he often played Nickel Linebacker early and often. This is something BB has been looking for, for a while. He played that role very well. You will see it a lot on this tape (pay close attention;-). I’m not going to go to long on the introduction (as I went to long on the Tape as I am wont to do;-). This Tape Barron was extremely well done and really showed how multitalented he is. 

Plus, the tape showed him at single high Safety, and the fine thin line he has to walk. He does it real well, playing with excellent intelligences, position, and angles. The end of the Tape also shows when he doesn’t play that fine thin finely, which in the end isn’t very often.

Barron vs Penn ST

The first play is easy to see (:08). He lines up in Cover Two, and then sneaks into the box. He covers for the two ILBs moving up, and the RILB's delayed blitzes. He sees the TE sneaking out and takes away that option from the QB who has to leave the pocket do to pressure. He switches sides on this play. He knows all the responsibilities of all the positions in the secondary so he can play anywhere (:08). Again, he sneaks up into the box, but this time to blitz not to cover for the blitzing ILB. He comes in fast. Spots the handoff and takes out the RB, (:18). I love that play. His adjustment to the hand off is excellent. Then he breaks down, gets his arms out wide hits him high and holds onto his legs for the tackle.

Here he is in the box playing like a linebacker in the Dime package, which you could see him do in the NFL. Especially if he goes to the Pats. BB has been looking for a big Safety to play Nickel and Dime Linebacker for years. He flows over to the Slot and picks up the big TE (:25). Here he is as the single high Safety. He is the last line of defense. He does a nice job getting off the WR block. Tracking the track guy, and not letting him back into the middle of the field. He plays the angle until there is nowhere for the little guy to go (:30). Most people always look for the spectacular play by the Safety. But mostly, it’s playing the angles and knowing your position. He played that perfectly, even though it was a 25-yard run. He was the last line of defense, and if he didn’t play the angle correctly or got out of position the track guy scores. A lot of people look at the play and think Barron didn’t play it right, but that is completely incorrect. The rest of the defense screwed up and he saved his teammates bacon as the last line of defense. 

Watch how fast he reads this play. He is a two-deep zone, so he has more leeway then the last play when he was the single high Safety. Two steps and he is charging to the RB. Some say he is a bad tackler. I disagree. He is a hitter. Sometimes Safeties have to make the safe play (like on the last play), and sometimes they have to make the big play or the big hit. That was play when the big hit was the right play. Sometimes when you look for the big hit it is the wrong play and you can look real bad, and sometimes it is the right play, but the ball-carrier makes a better play. It is a fine line these guys have to dance on at speeds most of us will never reach. He rides that line better than most when it comes to quick decisions (:44).

Here he is back in the Box with the shadow of the Endzone on his back. He moves up into the Nickel Linebacker, a role BB has looking to fill since Tank Williams, and used Julian Edelman in that role last season. In the new pass first and ask questions later NFL, BB wants a Safety who can play in the box on passing downs, which means covering the TE down the Seam, covering the RB sneaking out of the backfield, and still being able to step up and stop the run on Draws, Delays, or even Options like a LB. Now a days that is gold. Penn ST is in a 3-Wide shotgun with two RB still in the backfield on 2nd down. I would be wrong, but I’m reading run here. Look how fast Barron reads the playaction and then the QB’s eyes. This is as fast a dissector of offenses as you will see in college. You can’t teach that quick mindedness. Either you get it or you don’t. How fast is he? He is on the Wrong Seam as the QB is throwing to the RB crossing to the opposite Seam. Watch how fast he gets across the field and makes the big hit with a wrap up tackle. I know some say he is not a good tackler, but not a lot of guys can make a hit that knocks the ball out with his helmet and wrap up at the same time (:52). I know I’m going a little nuts, but I thought that this was such a great play from: an intelligence perspective, read and recognize perspective, athletic perspective, speed perspective, and fundamental perspective. Plus, I read this play completely wrong, and he read it perfectly.

Back to two high Safety, and on the rightside. He reads pass instantly and gets into his pedal smoothly. I like this play because it looked like the QB threw the ball away, and Barron is the only player in proper position to play the ball. Plus, with his injury a lot of people are questioning his speed. This play doesn’t show his speed, but shows his range and smart in coverage, which is sometime more important (1:17). I love this Tape. Here he is again playing in the Box, in the Nickel, like BB has been looking for. He gets nice coverage on the speedy RB on the Wheel route. He breaks up the pass more with his presence than with an athletic play, but by having the proper angle and the proper position in coverage. Again showing consistency makes the routine play that stops drives, but doesn’t get on Sport Center (1:27).

Back in the Box as a Nickel LB. It looks like he is eyeing the RB. It looks like he read something presnap. He blitzes right off the edge and never takes his eyes off the RB. Maybe it was luck, but he was moving before the snap, and it sure looked like he keyed something presnap. Boom, he is charging sideways like he is setting the edge on a run, before the RB gets the ball. There is no doubt in my mind he read that run from start to finish. Then he had the athleticism, speed, and agility to turn in and tackle the RB (1:37). Smart-smart-smart. Back in the Box. Now I know the Box safety is leaving the NFL as fast as hitting the Quarterback, but when you have a safety who can cover the TE and RB as intelligently and athletic as Barron playing Linebacker in the Nickel, you really have something. Notice they are still playing two deep Safeties, so he is playing ILB with run responsibilities. He has to read this play like a LB and a Safety. Here, he is covering the zone vacated by the Hightower blitz. He picks up the TE coming across the middle smoothly (1:44).

Back to Single high Safety. He is the last line of defense, and it is his sole responsibility to not let a Penn State player get behind him. Notice he keys pass and is heading deep before the ball is snapped. Smart-smart-smart. He reads the QB’s eyes and gets into perfect position. He doesn't get the INT, but that is a 6-6 WR, and Barron is way up high over him taking away any chance of a reception (1:56). Does he have hops? His shoulder is level with the leaping 6-6 WR’s head (2:05). Is he athletic enough to cover in the NFL? Check out how he is behind the WR. He plants his foot, re-angles, and leaps in front of the 6-6 Moyer, and slaps the ball out of the sky. That is truly great athleticism (2:09).

Back in two-deep coverage. He fakes like he is coming up a little and then gets back properly. Remember, it is his responsibility to not let the WR get behind him. The CB is toasted by Moyer. Barron gets into position to make a play on the ball, while the CB isn’t athletic enough to stay with Moyer (2:15). Back at Nickel LB. he doesn’t even move. He just diagnoses. Finally the TE crosses in front of him so he covers him. He is a little behind but still has nice position behind the TE, with the CB covering in front of the TE (2:25). He shows his Safety instincts here, as he plays it a little safer than maybe he should have, but that is luxury criticism from the sideline (2:05). Safeties have to dance that thin line between good position and giving up a long TD.

Back to two-deep coverage. He takes two miss-steps. He obviously didn’t read it quickly enough, but he never went back into full pedal. He half pedaled while he diagnosed the play. Then he is move in run support. Notice he is moving towards the RB, but cautiously. He knows he is the last line of defense. He can’t let the RB get behind him. He gets position cautiously, and then tackles aggressively. Besides the two false steps, which are more than understandable as he knows his primary responsibility is to not let a player get behind him, that was very well played (2:34). Remember as a Safety he has to dance that fine thin line between last line of defense and the big hit.

There is nothing left to say. Single high Safety means you have to get from sideline to sideline 30-50 yards down field. He is the last line of defense, and he certainly doesn’t let his mates down (2:42). Okay, I don’t know what his Forty time is so I won’t call him fast. But that blur from the left side of the screen has some serious range in center field (2:34). He is 20-yards away the play when it begins. And he just leaps in front of the WR and grabs the ball out of the air. That is not an easy INT to make form Centerfield (3:07).

Oh-ow! Negatives (Well, we’ll see if we can positive this up a little;-). Okay, Single high Safety, means he has a LOT of field to protect. He has proper position. However, it looks like he took a bit of bad angle. The QB made a nice throw, and the 6-6 Moyer makes the play. However, he did prevent any more yardage from occurring. Nice play, not great, but nice (3:16). Two deep zone. You can see he is keying run. He goes into a sprinter stance before the snap. He charges towards the RB. He makes the right read, gets into nice position, but just whiffs on the RB in traffic. He runs into the ORT protecting the Sideline just as the RB cuts back. Proper position. Proper play (3:27). It’s those are the two most negative plays of the Penn St game, that is pretty good.

Barron vs Tennessee

Whew, back to the positives (I was getting worried;-). Back to Nickel Linebacker. He clearly has coverage responsibilities on the RB. His usual responsibility as the Nickel LB. He picks him up nicely, but the QB never looks his way (3:37). Back in Cover-Two again. He sees it so fast. Watch how he jumps and yells (I imagine run), and takes off to the left and angles down field as the trick play goes to opposite side. The QB holds the ball however, and tricks him (and me for that matter;-). He also tricks most of the defense (that’s why they call it trickeration;-). However, he gets back into the play, and what do I always say, “If you want to win in the NFL you have to hit the Quarterback," and Man-alive! He hits the Quarterback. He not only recovers from his (and my;-) bad read, he knocks the ball out and saves the day (3:47). That is a fumble baby!

Now, this is interesting. He is creeping up the line playing Slot Safety. He is going to cover that WR in the Slot. Not an easy thing for a Safety to do, but in the new NFL it is something every Safety has to do more-and-more. Not bad, nice pedal. He three-quarters it a little like he is protecting the outside. But the WR cuts inside and the QB sees a Safety on his slot receiver and goes to him (3:58). Mike Mayock ask Saban if he thought Barron had the hips to cover. Saban, “I don't think there's any doubt about it. Mark is a very gifted guy," Nick Saban Said at Alabama's Proday. "First of all, he's a great competitor. He's a very good leader. He's got tremendous toughness. He can play in the Box, or in the deep part of the field. Even though he's long, and sometimes doesn't look as smooth as another guy covering. Because he's so long, he's almost like a Swing forward playing the Point Guard. Now all of a sudden this guy [the PG he's guarding] can't make all these passes. And he bats a lot of balls down, and covers people because of his length, and I think he can cover people."

Now I know he’s his college coach so he has to say that, I need some proof. I like the pedal, protecting the outside. (4:09). Look at him open those hips, and boom break to the middle of the field (4:12). Then he cuts in front of the WR, he has that great knack for cutting in front of the WR it is amazing. He definitely has the hips, and the knack for breaking on the ball all Safeties need in the new NFL.

Back to Cover-Two. Only he disguised coverage, and he actually has man responsibility on the Tight End. Something he will definitely have to do in the new NFL. He looks to jam the TE, but is is to late. This is an amazingly athletic play. Watch how he gets over-aggressive and gets on the wrong side of the TE’s body. He somehow swings around the TE. Literally runs a circle around him, and gets back into position to make a play on the ball. That is an easy flag, but an amazing recovery when he crossed the fine line and got too aggressive, and almost got away with it (4:17). Here he is creeping up behind Hightower to take his place in coverage. He sees Hightower flush the QB out of the pocket, and splits through traffic to get to the sideline. He reads it so fast he is in on the play again with smarts and speed (4:27).

I mean, just really nice coverage on the Jerk Route in the Slot. That is a very difficult route to cover. Great play on the ball in great coverage (4:38). Back at Slot Safety covering the Slot receiver. He reads it perfectly and gets into position smoothly. Nice coverage (4:44). Here he is telling his mates in the secondary where to go. It looks like the play action led to an easy Touchdown. But Barron never looses his perfect position (4:55). Both Linebackers miss read it, but you can see Barron reads it perfectly from the snap (5:03/04).

Single high Safety. He keys the Slot receiver and has to move over to cover him. Tennessee rushes and he is a hair out of position, and on the wrong side of that fine thin line, and when you get too aggressive on that fine thin line and the rest of the defense screws up, you give up the long TD (5:12). Nickel Linebacker. He reads run, but keys the slanting O-Line as an outside run, but hey are running a Counter. He uses his nice agility to get back into the play and make the tackle. This isn’t a negative play but an excellent play. Everyone else on the defense was followed by the Countering O-Line. He over ran the play a little, but was the only one who read it right (5:24).

Here they are in the Prevent, and he is in the Slot. Defenders are not going to look good in the Prevent when a team runs the ball. He maintained good position, and then got juked. Not great, but not bad either (5:34). Okay, how is that a negative play. He was playing high safety. Keyed run. Came up field and took on the blocker, and made the tackle. That was very well done (5:42). So he got a little face mask. I though he played that real well (he just got a finger caught on the facemask 5:55;-). Slot Safety. Again, not an easy place for the safety to be, but something he has to do in the new NFL. Okay, gets juked by a nice move. I like how he got back into the play. If the WR had caught the ball he wasn’t going anywhere. That’s why recovery speed and quickness is so important. DBs are going to get beat in the open field by WRs. The question is can you get yourself back into the play when you are beat. He did, nice play (6:02).

Barron vs Auburn

Okay here’s Auburn. I watched this game, and he made some real nice plays in this game. Here is changing the defense when the WR goes in motion. This play really shows who the leader of this defense was. He reads the screen and destroys it (6:11). He reads the run, gets up field fast, and makes the big hit (6:21). Reads it creeps up and blitzes like a linebacker when he is the Nickel LB (6:31). Reads the play, even gives a signal. He is the last line of defense so he has to keep his position. He plays the angle perfectly (6:38).

Nickel LB. Real nice play. He reads the End-Around. Takes the hit from the blocking WR, and still makes the play to the opposite side of the field (6:49).

Great play. He has the Slot receiver. When he motions out he reads the option perfectly and tackles the Quarterback (7:02). Then he gives up a few long passes, and shows what happens when you are the last line of defense and you make a mistake. That is the responsibility he has on most plays. 

 

A Few Notes and Quotes (but I can't remember were I pilfered them;-):

“Big safety, athletic, smart, rare size and frame. Runs the show in a difficult defense to absorb. Very good kid. No issues. Coaches love him and trust him. Immediate starter wherever he goes. Injury is the only way he is available at 20.” - “We played in a very difficult defense, first of all,” Barron said. “We did a lot of different schemes. As far as communicating, I had a lot to do with that on the back end. I feel like sometimes I brought some energy with the hits that I made and things of that nature. So, I did a lot of different things.”  “He can cover tight ends,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said of Barron. “I need him to cover Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and he can do that.” - “I feel like it’s very hard for us safeties to get in the first round, so I think that shows you that the position of safety is being undervalued,” Barron said. “… If a guy’s a good player, then he’s just a good player. I don’t see why, position-wise, if you have a better player that’s a safety and then you have a corner that might not be a better football player, I don’t see a reason why the corner should go ahead of the safety. I’ve seen it happen. I just don’t understand it but that’s not my position to pick.” - “People are going to draft off what they see on film,” he said. “… Mark Barron is a big, tough, instinctive safety. He’s got size, he can play in the box and he can play deep.”  

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