Better late than never, and better dead than red amirite?
Mike Sherels (@MikeSherels) March 13, 2015
Robbinsdale (MN) Armstrong HS junior inside linebacker Thomas Barber verbally committed to Minnesota on March 13th, becoming the second legacy linebacker recruit to pledge Maroon & Gold in consecutive days. Barber is a 3 star prospect according to 247Sports' Industry Composite and the latest member of the family to carry on a proud Gopher tradition. Of course I'm referring to Thomas' dad (Marion, Jr.) and two older brothers (Marion III and Dom), but you already knew that. Thomas' commitment makes three for 2016, all of whom are in-state defensive prospects.
Thomas with 247Sports' Kyle Goblirsh on his pledge and family's reaction ($):
"I called Coach around 2:30 today and told him I was committing," the local 3-star Linebacker told 247Sports this afternoon. "It feels really good, I probably would of last week, but I wanted to see how the visit went and it went great!"
Barber was originally thinking he would commit in person yesterday, but held off a day and gave the staff a call before Spring Break began. "I saw Carter’s commitment yesterday and I wanted him to have his day, haha. When I called Coach Kill and he was very happy to hear from me and hear of my commitment."
With a family of Gopher greats, Thomas said everyone was happy to hear his decision to stay home. "They were all really excited and happy. I came inside and pops was singing the rouser. Dom kinda had a hunch it was coming cause I needed Coach Kill’s number."
Armstrong head coach Jackson Negen on Barber, via Scout:
"I’ve only been the head coach there for a year, so I just had Thomas last year and I don’t know what else to say, he’s phenomenal," Negen said. "He’s just kind of our guy on defense; well he’s kind of the guy on our team. He plays both ways for us. We tried to rest him a little bit on offense last year, give him some breathers but again he’s the guy who carried the ball some for us. Defensively he’s our guy. He’s in the middle of the field, our middle linebacker; he’s kind of the guy we count on."
"Thomas is a, he’s just an unbelievable kid to be honest with you," Negen said. "He’s a great football player – he’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached – but he’s also a phenomenal kid. He’s a great student, a leader in our school, just a great character guy, and so he’s kind of the guy we count on and the guy the kids look up to. Just by the way he handles himself everywhere he goes."
(Likely Fraudulent) Measurables**
** The section title is a bit. It's intentionally facetious comment on how recruiting sites (and even some college coaches) notoriously exaggerate traditional combine measures -- especially the 40. No offense is meant.
Weight: 225-230 lbs.
Fake 40 Time: Barbarian speed
Barber is actually a solid analog to Jaylen Waters, the 2015 Mike LB signee who shared the comparable superlative of "thumper." Thomas also has a lot in common with recently graduated First Team All-B1G standout Damien Wilson in that he has a nose for the ball and just stuffs the stat sheet with tackles. 132 tackles in nine games is insane.
2016 Minnesota Commitments
Carter Coughlin Pledges to Minnesota
Jerry Kill and Mike Sherels just won their biggest recruiting battle to date with the commitment of a legacy four star linebacker.
2016 Minnesota Commitments
This offer and commitment was inevitable, so let's focus on the optics. You'd think it laughable that a member of the Barber family could seemingly fall under the radar yet again, but here we are in 2016 and Power5 schools didn't seem all the interested in recruiting Thomas. Other schools having zero friggen chance to sign him likely played a role, but it's not as if this family doesn't have a history of producing late bloomers that go on to the League. Oh yeah, that's exactly what the Barber's do.
So Thomas is a multi-sport athlete who will hang up his skates and slapshot in favor of enrolling at the U next January. That'll give him time to develop more overall leg and upper body strength versus the type of endurance training one needs to play hockey. Also, there's the fact he was a two-way standout last season at Armstrong, something he won't be asked to do once he sets foot on campus. There's quite a bit of projection involved here by the staff, though it's the kind of projection they specialize in: molding a multi-sport athlete with bloodlines into a specialized tackling barbarian. It certainly doesn't hurt that Thomas is 1) smart 2) a leader 3) has great instincts. He'll be asked to take on fullbacks and pulling guards, shoot gaps and smash everything in sight. I think that's inscribed on the Barber family crest somewhere.
Impact on Other Prospects?
It's mid-March, and the staff may be done recruiting linebackers for the 2016 class. Seriously. With only one linebacker graduating this year (De'Vondre Campbell) and a huge crop of underclassmen, there just isn't the need for bodies unlike other positions, such as defensive line and secondary. Quite honestly, any other linebacker that might sign in 2016 would probably find himself looking up at Thomas and Carter on the depth chart anyway, since there's just no way the staff won't give those 2 every opportunity to stand out early on in their respective careers.