2013 Sun Bowl Prospect Preview: UCLA vs. Virginia Tech

UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr has emerged as a top prospect since switching from offense to defense as a junior. (Photo: Gary A. Vazquez — USA Today Sports)

Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA, Sr. (6’4”, 248 lbs)

There is a lot to like about Anthony Barr. From his length, instincts and pass-rushing abilities to his versatility and ability in coverage, there are many reasons why the Bruins’ uber-athletic outside linebacker will likely be a top-10 pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Perhaps the most exciting quality about Barr, however, is that he has only been playing linebacker for two seasons.

Recruited as a fullback by former head coach Rick Neuheisel, Barr was asked to transition to defense when Jim Mora took over. From his first snap at linebacker, Barr has been a star for the UCLA defense with a knack for big, momentum-changing plays, amassing 145 tackles, 23.5 sacks, 41.5 tackles for loss and 11 forced fumbles over the past two seasons.

Though his athleticism makes him a great prospect for 4-3 defenses, Barr ideally projects as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defensive scheme, where he could use his length, explosion and athleticism to get after quarterbacks and disrupt offensive backfields. To become a dominant 3-4 pass rusher, Barr needs to add 10-15 pounds of muscle to complement his speed rush with a power component.

While there is not much about Barr’s game to critique, he has had a tendency this season to fade in and out of games, appearing to hunt for big plays rather than remaining consistently involved. He has been able to get away with this at the college level because of his freakish athleticism, but as a top pick at the next level, he will be expected to remain locked in and star from the moment he signs his contract.

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA, R-So. (6’3”, 222 lbs)

UCLA star quarterback Brett Hundley will have a difficult decision to make after the Sun Bowl. Only a redshirt sophomore, Hundley might not yet be ready for the NFL, but questions about UCLA’s offensive line and Mora’s future at the school, along with the lure of the money that comes with being a first-round draft pick, might be enough to convince the talented Hundley to leave Westwood, Calif. early.

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley needs to develop physically, but is still a potential first-round pick if he declares for the NFL draft. (Photo: Robert Hanashiro — USA Today Sports)

A gifted athlete at quarterback, Hundley combines quick feet, agility, good speed and the toughness to run through tackles with a strong and accurate arm, making him equally dangerous running and throwing the ball. A pre-med major with three years of experience in the read option, Hundley also brings a cerebral element to his game that will be appealing to talent evaluators.

Hundley has had durability issues in his two years as UCLA’s starting quarterback. Though he has not suffered any serious injuries, his slender build has had a propensity to get banged up, and that could be problematic at the next level as his opponents get larger, faster and stronger. Whether on a pro sideline or at UCLA next year, Hundley will need to add weight and strength to minimize nagging injuries in the future.

Though he is generally a solid decision-maker, the other major knock on Hundley is a tendency to try to do too much. Most of his mistakes come when he tries to turn a good play into a spectacular one.

Should Hundley decide to leave early, he will likely be a first-round draft pick, as there are few quarterback prospects with his skills. That said, he likely needs a year or two to mature physically before he is ready to be a franchise signal-caller.

Xavier Su’a-Filo, LT, UCLA, Jr. (6’3”, 305 lbs)

UCLA’s most talented and versatile lineman, Xavier Su’a-Filo is critical to the offense’s success. Reliable in the passing game and effective in the run game, much of Jim Mora’s offense hinges on Su’a-Filo, who has moved from his natural position of left guard to left tackle due to injuries to starting tackles Torian White and Simon Goines.

With a naturally squatty frame, Su’a-Filo’s natural position in the NFL will be at guard. His experience at tackle is most evident in pass blocking, where Su’a-Filo shows a good knee bend, solid balance and good lateral quickness. He also shows good punch and explosiveness as a run blocker, and he is athletic enough to be effective as a pulling guard. Su’a-Filo does not have great length for his size, but he does a good job anchoring against the bull rush.

Su’a-Filo will have a decision to make following the Sun Bowl on whether to declare for the 2014 NFL draft. Though he is not an elite guard prospect, he has already started 39 games for the Bruins, and having served two years on a Mormon mission, he is set to turn 23 on Wednesday.

His game does not show many flaws, but because he has been moved around so much, he also has not had a lot of opportunity to develop at the guard position. With another year of college experience at guard, Su’a-Filo could improve his ability to finish blocks and add strength.

His diverse experience in UCLA’s spread offense likely projects him somewhere between the late second round and mid-fourth round should he declare.

Matchup to Watch: Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech, So. (6’0″, 193 lbs) vs. Shaquelle Evans, WR, UCLA, Sr. (6’1”, 211 lbs)

While the elder Fuller looks like a solid corner prospect, his younger brother Kendall, just a true freshman, is the better athlete. One of the top high school prospects in the country last year, Kendall Fuller was pressed into early playing time with injuries to his brother and Antone Exum. Though he has worked through first-year challenges, he has really come on in recent weeks and been a major contributor for the Hokies’ banged-up secondary.

With his big brother coming off an injury, the onus of guarding UCLA’s best deep threat may fall to the talented freshman.

In what looks to be one of the most talented wide receiver draft classes ever, Shaquelle Evans is unlikely to receive much attention. Evans is an extremely athletic receiver who was a much better fit for Neuheisel’s pro-style offense than Mora’s spread, so he has not been able to perform up to his ability and that could result in a drop in his draft stock.

Great deep speed, good leaping ability and an innate ability to play the ball in the air make Evans a serious deep threat. Evans also has great strength for his size, allowing him to both get off jams and fight for balls in the air.

Look for Hundley’s favorite target to have a few big plays against a beleaguered secondary.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Anthony Barr, Bowl Games, Bowl Previews, Brett Hundley, Game Previews, Kendall Fuller, Kyle Fuller, Logan Thomas, Luther Maddy, Prospect Previews, Shaquelle Evans, Sun Bowl, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Xavier Su'a-Filo

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