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Barber proving to be a cut above for WVU

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Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
West Virginia linebacker Jared Barber stands up Georgia State running back Kyler Neal on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va.
By Bob Hertzel
Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 10:27 p.m.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia junior linebacker Jared Barber does not mince words when critiquing his play last season.

“I really disappointed myself and embarrassed myself and my family for the way I played and the way I prepared,” Barber said this week during the Mountaineers' preparations for Saturday's noon homecoming game against No. 16 Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) at Milan Puskar Stadium. “I went about things the complete wrong way, and I can't get it back.”

Barber is embracing his nasty side more this season, and it's paying off. He leads the Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2) in tackles with 41.

“This year I just came in and set my mind to playing hard and playing how I used to play,” he said. “That's all I'm trying to do — play hard, play with effort and play with a chip on my shoulder.”

Barber came to WVU from Davie High in Mocksville, N.C. He understood he was having problems last season, even though as a sophomore he played in 12 games, starting four of them.

“The coaches definitely told me I wasn't playing very well, and I could tell myself that I wasn't playing very well,” he said.

But it was something deeper than just technique.

“I wasn't enjoying playing football, to be honest with you. Things were going wrong, (and) that kind of hindered my emotional state,” he said, refusing to elaborate. “(Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson) and I had a great talk last spring, and he really helped me out about not letting my emotions affect me.

“You have to be the same person night-in and night-out. I set my mind to it and just kept working.”

Blocking things out mentally isn't always easy.

“You try as best as you can. Sometimes big things like family and stuff like that, you're thinking about it constantly, and I just let it get to me too much,” Barber said. “There needs to be a light switch.”

He turned on that switch this season. That was important, in particular, because Nick Kwiatkoski — WVU's best linebacker through three games — was sidelined for most of two games while recovering from a hamstring injury.

“We will get him back in the mix because he was our most productive linebacker after three games. He will make us better defensively,” Holgorsen said. “Jared is a guy that is solid, and much like (senior linebacker) Doug Rigg, they are program guys that are going to try hard and be in the right position. Nick is a guy that makes more dynamic plays. If he is healthy, he will be a starter.”

Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.

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