Former coach Jim Leavitt once anointed Sam Barrington as the best true freshman linebacker in USF history.
Just imagine what he can do as a sophomore.
“I think he has a chance to be a really good linebacker,” said defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, who’s in his first season at USF. “He’s long. He can run. He’s got good ball skills. He’s smart. He’s what you’re looking for in a MIKE.”
Barrington seems to be the next talent in line at middle linebacker for USF, following the likes of Kion Wilson, Tyrone McKenzie and Ben Moffitt – all of whom had big careers.
Barrington, however, has one goal in mind, and that doesn’t include an agenda to fulfill anyone’s expectations.
“To be honest … my personal goals are the team goals,” he said. “As a player, I always strive to get better, but I have no personal goals aside from the team goals.”
Barrington’s talent kicked in last season, when he had one of the best seasons a freshman linebacker has ever had at USF. He played in every game, finished with 41 tackles as a backup and was named to the All-Big East Freshman Team by ESPN.com.
“I never met a freshman who’s been able to adjust to the Division I environment as fast as he did – just (the way he) runs and works hard,” said senior linebacker Jacquian Williams. “He did stuff sophomores and juniors do.”
But Barrington, who suffered a minor shoulder injury recently, is adjusting all over again with the rest of his teammates.
“I think he’s challenged right now,” said coach Skip Holtz. “He’s learning a new defense and wasn’t able to practice for the first four or five days. He’s in it. He’s really into it. He’s got a great attitude and is working really hard right now … He’s obviously a bit rusty, but he’ll knock that off.”
Still, Barrington is listed as the No. 1 middle linebacker on the depth chart. He said following in the footsteps of great middle linebackers can serve as motivation. Though only a sophomore, he said in his position, he may have no choice but to be a great player.
“If things fall down, sometimes people look directly at you,” he said of the middle linebacker position. “If you have a run blast up the middle for 45 yards, people are going to look at you. You have to set that leadership role. If you don’t, you’re going to get that run 40 yards up the middle.”
To help fill the role, Barrington said his goal was to gain a few pounds during the offseason.
Last year, he played at about 219 (pounds), and at some points, he said he felt “skinny.”
Barrington currently weighs 226 and “feels good.”
“You don’t want to get thrown around,” he said. “I’m not saying I got thrown around last year, but you always want to carry that weight and carry it well.”
Barrington said the rest of his game will come naturally.
“Any good player in any program … they all carry the same characteristics,” he said. “That’s effort, the things that don’t even take talent – just hard work. When I come out onto the field, that’s what I’m going to push toward. I’ll carry on if my talent kicks in.”