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‘Crazy story’ brought defensive lineman Kyon Barrs to Arizona

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Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Sophomore defensive tackle Kyon Barrs is listed as a starter for the Arizona Wildcats’ 2020 opener against the USC Trojans.

It’s not a position he expected to be in coming out of Murrieta Mesa High School last year. Barrs was a late addition to the 2019 recruiting class, committing in May of that year.

“It’s actually a crazy story,” Barrs said Tuesday via Zoom. “I was originally gonna go JuCo, and I was already working out with the JuCo, Riverside City College. And I was just training and my coach was planning to have a showcase where all college coaches would come and watch, but I wasn’t going to go because I was already a senior. It was for underclassmen, I didn’t want to really step in there, but my coach said, ‘you should go. There’s coaches that want to see you.’ And I went, Coach [Demetrice Martin] happened to be there, he saw me do the drills, and next thing you know he was in contact and we started talking. I went on official visit and everything. It went really well.”

Arizona didn’t have much competition. It was the only Division I program to offer Barrs, who wasn’t ranked by Rivals or 247Sports. He put up impressive numbers as a senior at Murrieta Mesa, racking 90 tackles and 10 sacks, but low SAT scores hindered his recruitment.

“For sure if my SAT scores were better I would have had more offers,” he said. “Not to brag, but I was a good high school player. I wasn’t a five-star, but I was good.”

Being overlooked put a chip on Barrs’ shoulder as he began his UA career. He had a strong fall camp last year, doing enough to earn extended playing time as a true freshman.

In 11 games, he made 13 tackles, including a career-high four in the season finale at ASU. He played more and more as the season went along.

“He’s explosive,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said Monday. “You saw flashes last year as a freshman because he’s got that quickness, because he has power, and I think a year into this thing, what he’s done in the weight room and training-wise, I think he can be a really good player and a Sunday (NFL) player.”

Barrs weight hovers around 300 pounds now, about 15 more than it did as a freshman. He trained hard during the pandemic to trade his “baby fat,” as Sumlin calls it, for muscle.

“Back home at my training facility—Winner’s Circle—I just was working,” Barrs said. “We was in quarantine so I had to do make up a couple of things in my garage—lift more weights, eat more, my mom fed me a bunch of home cooked meals, protein really. I was able to get up to 300 and gain all my weight. And coming back here, Coach B(rian Johnson) got us right.”

Barrs said he “feels great” now. He’s more nimble even though he’s heavier. That’s good because last season Barrs got a taste for the speed of the college game.

“He’s strong, he’s really quick too,” said starting guard Robert Congel. “It’s really good going up against him in practice because he’s really a legit Pac-12 d-lineman and he can beat you with power, he can beat you in speed. He really does a great job of helping me prepare for the week.”

In one way, it’s fitting that Barrs could make his first career start against USC. He grew up 90 miles from its campus and it was his favorite school growing up.

On the other hand, the chance to play against the Trojans never seemed realistic until Arizona swooped in with a late offer.

“My mom, she’s a very spiritual person, so I just knew that God had a plan for me and a blessing was gonna come,” Barrs said. “I just had to wait my turn.”