With the UCF Knights bringing back multiple experienced interior defensive lineman, there still needs to be a stalwart in the middle; the player opposing teams need to prepare for. UCF has that player even with Kalia Davis going on to the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers.
Size: 6’3”, 290-pounds
Position: Defensive Tackle
29 total tackles (14 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, three quarterback hurries, and one pass breakup. Perhaps most importantly, Barber came up big during the back-and-forth 17-13 victory versus USF.
Barber’s five overall tackles, plus 1.5 sacks, were prime reasons that the Knights held the Bulls to just 13 points and only 312 yards of total offense. Maybe most importantly, USF averaged a paltry two yards per rush against UCF’s defensive front, with Barber in the middle of the battle.
Barber’s natural strength makes him hard to move with one blocker, as USF players undoubtedly know. Additionally, with UCF having other talented defenders up front like Keenan Hester, Lee Hunter and Anthony Montalvo, even if other teams decide to double team Barber, he’s helping his teammates to be in one-on-one situations to where they can make plays.
This next season, Barber’s experience and natural talent should combine for better overall statistics, but it’s important to note that his most important value stems from other teams needing to plan for Barber.
If any particular team believes it can consistently block him with one offensive lineman, that should be a day that Barber racks up statistics much like the game versus USF last season.
Helping to Pressure the Quarterback
A true pass rush is normally a collective. A one-man show does not typically do well, at least not consistently. UCF will not be in the latter situation.
With UCF’s talent on the edge like Landon Woodson, Josh Celiscar, and Tre’mon Morris-Brash, and K.D. McDaniel, any interior pressure will be clutch. There should be several opportunities to have the quarterback pushed back towards the line of scrimmage with the aforementioned defensive ends coming after the signal caller. Barber, along with his fellow defensive tackles, are going to be the beneficiaries.
Barber is also quick enough to beat his opponent with his first-step quickness and/or power. He has a chance to change games this fall during obvious passing situations. Overall, estimating Barber’s over/under sack total projection should be placed at a minimum of six.
Can Barber have a game-ending sack or tackle for loss? Maybe a deflection that a teammate intercepts and returns for a score?
How Barber plays against teams like Louisville, SMU, and Cincinnati will likely help determine UCF’s final 2022 record. More specifically, a single play in a game that ends up being the game changer, i.e. with UCF’s defense at its own eight yard line, a sack on third and five against Cincinnati. It could be a safety created by Barber who shoots a gap and tackles the running back in the end zone against SMU.
Elite special-moment plays are what UCF needs from Barber if he’s to reach his potential this fall. If he can create a handful of these types of plays during critical moments, it will help the Knights beat really good football teams this next season.