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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Size and speed make Loyola's Anthony Barr a standout running back

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior is perhaps the No. 1 high school running back in California. But there is debate about his future at a position where being big makes you a bigger target.

August 26, 2009|Eric Sondheimer

It's 6 a.m. and Anthony Barr, perhaps the No. 1 running back in the state, is yawning as he leans against a mirror in the Los Angeles Loyola weight room and prepares for another morning of vigorous, all-out physical activity.

At 6 feet 4 and 230 pounds, with muscles that make him look like a fighting champion, Barr could be the poster child for the high school athlete who refuses to rest on last season's laurels.

It seems a little unfair that some tiny defensive back might have to try to tackle the imposing Barr, but he's not about to feel guilty about using his size, speed and power.

"It's my job," he said. "I'm going to do what I have to do to help my team win. If it's running somebody over or hitting somebody hard, that's what I'm going to do."

There are few running backs who possess Barr's combination of size and speed, and it's creating a debate whether he can be successful at the next level or beyond because tall running backs are bigger targets and become more susceptible to injury.

"Everybody who recruits him asks, 'What is he going to play?' " Coach Jeff Kearin said. "Is he going to be a tailback? Is he going to be a safety? Is he going to be an outside linebacker? But he has the skills of a running back that I haven't seen in a long time in his ability to play low, play fast and he has great vision that I think gives him an edge over anybody."

Last season as a junior, Barr rushed for 1,890 yards and 20 touchdowns and also suffered a couple of hip-pointers. He enjoys playing running back, but he is also keeping his options open.

"I know it's going to be more difficult at the collegiate level, and I might have to change positions, and I'm fine with that as long as I play," Barr said.

But that's for next season. This season, high school opponents will be stuck trying to figure out how to tackle a teenager big enough to play on the offensive line but fast enough to run away from anybody when he turns on the speed.

"He's such an elegant athlete in that he's tall, lean and long but, he's so fast and has great body control and vision that every time he touches the ball, just about everybody's breath gets taken away just for a second because of what might happen," Kearin said. "Those guys don't come around very often."

Then there's Barr's unyielding work ethic.

"He has these long days and doesn't shy away from hard work, commitment or being a leader," Kearin said. "Yet, he does have a quiet confidence about him. He's not a big talker. He's painfully shy at times, but when he speaks or moves, I think the rest of the room listens and follows, and that's a nice trait these days."

Barr receives motivation and comfort from his mother, Lori, the principal at Santa Fe Springs St. Paul. She has reared him as a single parent, and her expectations and priorities resonate with Barr.

"She works hard every day with her job being a principal," he said. "She's always busy. I look up to her and admire her. The work she puts in has really influenced me to work as hard as I could."

College recruiters have been eager to get into the competition for Barr, but he has stayed away from summer combines and camps and doesn't mind laying low and off the recruiting message boards. Yes, he has a strong connection to Notre Dame -- his father, Tony Brooks, went there -- but UCLA, USC, Michigan and California continue to pursue him.

"I really don't know where I want to go yet," he said. "I'm looking and playing the field and seeing what best fits me. I'm not worried about camps. I feel I've proved myself and hopefully I'll prove myself even more during this upcoming season."

If this is going to be Barr's final season as a running back, he has every intention of going out knocking down and running away from a few tacklers in the process.

Thursday: Offensive linemen.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/latsondheimer

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BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX

Top 10 running backs

Times staff writer Eric Sondheimer's list of the top high school running backs in the Southland. An expanded list is available at latimes.com/preps.

*--* PLAYER SCHOOL HT,WT CLASS COMMENT Anthony Barr Los Angeles Loyola 6-4, 230 Senior He's a man among boys Jordon James Corona 5-10, 195 Senior He's healthy and ready to roll Malcolm Jones Oaks Christian 6-1, 215 Senior Scored 34 TDs, averaged 10.1 yards per carry Malcolm Marable Alemany 5-9, 175 Senior Oregon State commit rushed for 1,655 yards, 23 TDs James McConico Compton 6-0, 200 Senior Averaged 19.9 yards per carry D.J. Morgan Taft 5-11, 175 Senior USC commit with big-time speed Cameron Roberson Newbury Park 6-1, 235 Senior Has speed, power, toughness DeAnthony Thomas Crenshaw 5-10, 150 Junior One of the most exciting runners in the state Cory Westbrook Long Beach Poly 5-11, 190 Senior Should be team's top offensive player Anthony Wilkerson Tustin 6-0, 210 Senior Stanford commit scored 39 TDs *--*

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