Transfer LB Bryton Barr brings experience to UMass defense

  • UMass linebacker Bryton Barr at takes a break from practice Tuesday at Gladchuck Field. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass linebacker Bryton Barr runs a drill during practice Tuesday at Gladchuck Field. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass linebacker Bryton Barr runs a drill during practice Tuesday at Gladchuck Field. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

AMHERST — There aren’t any gray hairs among Bryton Barr’s long locks.

“Not yet,” he said laughing.

Athletically the UMass linebacker is a junior, but he’s already spent five years in college and is 23 years old, which makes him grizzled by college football standards.

Most of his true freshman teammates were in eighth grade when Barr started playing college football.

Back then he was at Towson, where he started all 11 games as a true freshman in 2012 and looked to be a star in the making for the Colonial Athletic Association squad.

But two games into his sophomore season he suffered a season-ending torn right pectoral muscle and took a medical redshirt.

The following year he tore his left pectoral and missed the entire 2014 season. A torn ACL cost him 2015.

He returned last year and played all 11 games for Towson with 58 tackles and three sacks.

Because of his injury history, the NCAA granted him two additional years of eligibility. With his undergraduate degree completed, he could transfer without sitting out and chose UMass.

“I was looking for a fresh start. After talking to coach (Charles) Walker and Coach (Mark) Whipple being here was something I looked forward to,” Barr said.

Barr is from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, the same town that produced UMass quarterback Andrew Ford and tight end Adam Breneman, but went to a different high school.

At Towson, the 6-foot, 225-pound Barr played outside linebacker and even some rush end. He was glad to be back at middle linebacker, where he played in high school.

Whipple said he fit in immediately. With senior Shane Huber’s status uncertain (see below), Barr could play a big role right way.

“With Shane being down, having him has been a godsend really,” Whipple said. “We thought he’d be good, but he’s like a fixture. It’s like he’s been here. He’s smart, instinctive and has really good quickness. He’s a leader. He’s well-liked, respected by his teammates.”

Walker, UMass’ linebackers’ coach, offered a similar evaluation.

“He’s been a good addition to the room. I’m glad he’s there. He’s played college football before. He understands what it takes,” Walker said. “He’ll definitely be in the mix. We have a lot of guys competing for jobs.”

Barr was just glad to be in consideration.

“It’s up to the coaches. If they put me in, I’m ready to go,” Barr said. “Never in a millions years did I think I would get a sixth and seventh year of eligibility. I’m very grateful every day I step on the practice field and put on a helmet. I thank god every time.”

HUBER STATUS UNRESOLVED — Whipple said Huber saw a doctor to address his knee injury Monday. They’re still deciding whether he’ll need surgery or not. Whipple said the senior linebacker will definitely miss time even if he doesn’t have a procedure.

“He won’t play early,” Whipple said. “They’re still seeing whether he has to get surgery or if he can go on it.”

Huber, like Barr, could petition the NCAA for extra eligibility if he doesn’t play this season, but Whipple said it was too early to speculate on that.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage