No stranger to hard work, Barrow ready to prove he's NFL linebacker material

Justin Edmonds

Denver Broncos picked their first linebacker in the fifth round of the Draft - a position many outside the Front Office believe to be a position of need. Is Lamin Barrow the answer at "Will" or "Mike" ... and when might he be ready to step in? LSU's Billy Gomilla helps us answer those questions.

Lamin Barrow wore No. 18 as an LSU Tiger. Now he's working for a spot on a team that helps the most important No. 18 in the NFL (by our measure!) Blogger Billy Gomilla of the Bayou's own And The Valley Shook joins us for some insight into the Denver Broncos' fifth-round pick.

MHR - The NFL's Draft Preview stated Lamin Barrow's strengths included being "tough and football smart" but that he doesn't make enough plays "at/behind the line, too much production is downfield." Does Barrow have the potential in your estimation to apply his strengths to overcoming his weaknesses in order to play in the NFL?

Billy - One thing Barrow definitely has is a great work ethic. He had always looked the part of a big-time linebacker, but took a few years to put it together. Before the 2012 season, I thought he was kind of make-or-break, and he really put together a fine final two years with 200 tackles or so. I would not put it past him at all to develop into a solid NFL player with some work.

MHR - Heading into the Draft, many Broncos fans were eager for Elway and Co. to pick a top middle linebacker to ensure strength for the position currently held by Nate Irving. Barrow was the top tackler at LSU last year as its "Will" linebacker with 91 tackles. Given the strengths and weaknesses you pointed out in your scouting report, can Barrow eventually play the "Mike" for the Broncos if called upon?

Billy - My first thought is that I don't know that it would play to Barrow's strengths. His game is much more about pursuit than it is filling gaps and taking on blockers the way most NFL mike linebackers do.

MHR - One of the aspects of Barrow's game that many fans are excited about is his ability to cover in space. Your scouting report said Barrow "struggles with recognition and reaction, leaving him extremely vulnerable in coverage" and that he's more of a "chase/pursuit linebacker than attacker." Given that review, should Broncos fans be leery of his coverage ability or is there evidence he'll be good on passing downs?

Billy - I think the tools are definitely there, and in the NFL if you can work and develop those strengths, anything is possible. That said, Barrow was never the most instinctive guy and looked lost at times last year.

MHR - BleacherReport included Barrow in its list this week of most underrated draft picks and labeled him one of the Draft's "steals" this season. Why or why not would you agree with that assessment?

Billy - I think that might be a bit strong of a statement. Which isn't to say that Barrow can't become a good player, just that he was a lower-round pick for a reason. It's up to him to overcome those reasons.

MHR - Some would say his size is bigger than the average NFL safety but smaller than the typical NFL linebacker. How does his athleticism help account for his smaller size as a linebacker, and is this an advantage or disadvantage in your opinion?

Billy - He has pretty good speed for his size and that helped him cover a lot of ground in college. And while he might not be a 245-pound monster, it's not like he's tiny either. I don't think size will be a detriment for Barrow at all, provided he's kept in the right role for a linebacker with his skill set.

MHR - He ran a 4.64 40 (top 3 linebackers at the Combine). How is his speed useful for the pro game and how does he use it to his advantage?

Billy - Like I said, he has very good speed for his size.

MHR - Barrow's path to the roster may be through Special Teams, as is the case for many rookies. What do you think of his abilities there and how could he be an asset to the Broncos?

Barrow was a steady contributor [on special teams] and I don't doubt he'd attack that sort of role with enthusiasm.

Billy - LSU's always had a major dedication to special teams under Les Miles, and Barrow was a steady contributor in that area until he found his way into the starting lineup as a junior. I don't doubt that he'd attack that sort of role with a lot of enthusiasm.

MHR - How does playing in the SEC - a major football conference with consistently tough BCS contenders the entire season - help Barrow's stock as a linebacker in the NFL?

Billy - I don't think there's any doubt that the competition helps. The upper-echelon programs in the SEC all recruit at high levels, so just getting on the field means beating out a number of other former high school studs. And then there's Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina on the other sideline.

On top of that, there are a lot of fantastic defensive coaches in the league as well. LSU's own defensive coordinator John Chavis has been churning out NFL linebackers for about 20 years now at LSU and Tennessee. He's also turned down chances to coach the position at the pro level as well.

MHR - Barrow wore No. 18 at LSU, which is a jersey chosen by teammates and given to the player who most represents what it means to be a Tiger. What can you tell us about why Barrow received this honor from his teammates?

Billy - It's something voted on by teammates, coaches and even past wearers of the number itself, and it's been a very fun way to honor the more well-respected seniors in the LSU locker room. Oddly enough, it started with nothing more than a friendly gesture from former Broncos' quarterback and current team dentist Matt Mauck to Jacob Hester, and it kind of just took on a life of its own.

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