David and I traveled over a river and through actual woods to idyllic Paw Paw, which has a football stadium on the banks of a river, a cool one-screen downtown movie theater on a main street ripped out of Disney World, a great pizza place that’s been owned by the same family for generations, and a standout offensive lineman in class of 2019 prospect and Michigan commit Karsen Barnhart. He even led his team onto the field carrying the school flag, with a teammate tucking an American flag just inside the edge of the frame above. Norman Rockwell, eat your heart out.
Barnhart and Paw Paw faced an overmatched Sturgis squad, and though the quality of competition wasn’t the most difficult Barnhart would encounter this season, he still showed why the scouting services view him as a four-star prospect. Barnhart plays tight end on the right side almost exclusively, except for the few snaps where he was split out wide. Like, to-the-sideline wide. Yeah, he’s pretty athletic. He also checked all the boxes you’d want from a future collegiate offensive lineman. He manhandled the opposition on the field and then water bottles on the sideline, dousing himself with water and flinging them away while he stalked the bench. Barnhart stayed actively involved on the field and on the sidelines despite Paw Paw going up multiple scores in a hurry and he played the part of team linchpin well, talking to everyone on the sidelines and trying to get them involved. So what exact boxes did he check? Hit the jump for deeper analysis.
[After THE JUMP: every-snap film and scouting]
Barnhart’s hands don’t come off the opponent once he locks on. You can see it from the first play on the reel above (Barnhart is #44 and usually lined up on the right side of the line), in which he gets one hand into the defensive lineman’s chest and another on the shoulder and doesn’t let go until the play is over. His opposition on that play looks small but is listed at 6'2” and 240 pounds, so we have a fair facsimile of what Barnhart can do to a linebacker. By 4:40, he’s lined up against a player closer to D1 defensive linemen (6’3”, 270 pounds) and still getting underneath the defender’s pads off the snap. Barnhart did a nice job using his hands to consistently get the opponent off balance when asked to block. In general, his handwork is refined, whether it be as a lineman or receiver; check out the high-and-away grab he makes on a two-point conversion at 4:33.
“When asked to block” is a necessary caveat for the above film, though. Barnhart spends a significant amount of time chipping the lineman across from him before getting into a route; that’s not a knock on his blocking ability, but a reality of playing tight end. At times, Paw Paw even flexes him out as a bonafide wide receiver. This wasn’t just a one-game gimmick, either, as 247’s Allen Trieu recently scouted Barnhart and noted how rare it is to see a guy of his profile on the outside.
That said, Barnhart certainly knows how to finish his blocks, and sometimes does so while exhibiting a mean streak. Sam Webb talked to Bill Greene, 247’s resident Ohio recruiting expert, about what to expect from Warinner, and it seems Barnhart will be a good fit:
[Warinner] prides himself in toughness and physicality first. You’re either going to be tough and physical or you’re going to sit. And it won’t matter what your recruiting rankings are, and it won’t matter if you started last year either.
Take a look at the play that starts at 4:53, in which Barnhart lines up as a tight end, immediately works to the middle linebacker, and doesn’t let go until the kid is firmly planted in the ground. He’s an equal-opportunity mauler, too, as we can see in the three-play sequence starting at 5:18. Barnhart takes exception to a little extra shoving from #72 and lets him know on the next play by lowering his shoulder into him en route to his route. Barnhart takes advantage of an attempted cut block on the next play, jumping on top of #72 and pushing him into the ground before basically sitting on him. Then at 6:42 #72 cheap-shots Barnhart and pays for it on the next play, getting sealed inside and then driven down into the turf.
It’s not a surprise considering the way Paw Paw utilizes him, but Barnhart has good feet. At 5:58 he takes a step outside to get the lineman to set before pivoting and slanting inside. He also keeps his feet moving through contact, which helps him move guys and is big for young linemen who can sometimes win blocks by virtue of size and upper-body strength alone. We talked to Barnhart’s basketball coach at halftime and he told us that the football coaches who visited in the winter were really impressed with Barnhart’s low-post moves. He then raved about Barnhart’s unexpected grace for someone his size.
There’s a lot to like about Barnhart’s game, which seems easily translatable to what Warinner wants to get from his linemen. It might take a while before we see the potential translate into playing time, though, as Barnhart isn’t asked to pass protect at all and is currently run blocking from the edge; he’s going to need technique work no matter which position he eventually lands at.
Barnhart is listed at 6’5” and seems to be a true 6’5”, and his athleticism should allow him the versatility to play either guard or tackle. Trieu wrote in the above-linked scouting report that he sees him as a guard. I think the complexion of the rest of the class is such that Barnhart might be better suited to start off working at tackle and then folding inside if need be.
Barnhart’s got great hands, regularly locking in under the pads of an opposing lineman and twisting them or otherwise neutralizing them by getting them off balance. His footwork is good when blocking, and also when chipping and going into a route. He has a mean streak, which showed up on the film any time he lost the prior rep or was dealt a cheap shot. He will need to continue to get stronger (he lost a couple of reps to the 6’3”, 270-pound end), but not at the expense of the athleticism and explosiveness that should allow him to shuffle and set and keep pace with the speedy edge rushers of the Big Ten.