Future Blue Originals: Karsen Barnhart Comment Count

Adam Schnepp September 12th, 2018 at 9:58 AM


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]


Every-Snap Film


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.


M_Born M_Believer

September 12th, 2018 at 11:23 AM ^

Grew up in the area. Norman Rockwell for sure. Also for the wine lovers on the board. Paw Paw is also known for its vineyards. 

As for the competition, yes that is D4 or D5 (think low Class B upper Class C Michigan HS football). So he is a ‘Man among boys’ there. Actually the fact that he went up against a 6’3” 270 DLine would be unusual. So yes it’s important to see that he clearly dominates the competition. It becomes important to understand his character as he will take a huge leap in competition when he shows up on campus where he is no longer the overmatched ‘gaint’, just another D1 athlete. 

Dont want this to be preceivwd as a down note. I love the fact that he is athletic enough to split out and play a flex TE as well. That’s a great sign of his mobility and athleticism. 

Excited to see what he can do when he gets here. 


September 12th, 2018 at 11:37 AM ^

Sounds like a great pickup.

However, is there some reason that most of the OL we've been recruiting (even those who play tackle) seem to project to guard? Even a guy like Devery Hamilton, who would have been considered a savior for us this season, has apparently been moved inside to guard. Is it so hard to go after pure tackles?


September 12th, 2018 at 11:47 AM ^

Wow, he is sooo out of postion at TE.  If I was his coach, he would be at OT mashing giant holes at the point of attack.  Half the plays he is going downfield and missing at the second level - total waste of a big body.  Does he play both ways and they are saving him for DL?  YouTube froze on me half way thru the tape so did not see any defensive reps.  Looks strong and athletic, but wish he was at OG or OT so he was learning more blocking technique.


September 12th, 2018 at 1:18 PM ^

Agree, he is wasted at the tightend position in a Power T offense.    His job on most running plays in to release then try to chase a free safety for a downfield block. He does no pass blocking there.     It makes no sense.   He looks mobile and can move well for a big man.   But he isn’t playing against anyone even close to D1 caliber in his league.     


September 12th, 2018 at 2:45 PM ^

I would hate to bash a "youngster" but the body language here is not great.  Waiving your hands after making a block and your teammate not scoring?  Waiving after not getting the deep ball?  Lots of suspect body language.  Also, athleticism for a tackle for sure, but not getting guys at the second level.  This is underwhelming. Again, I hate to bring down a "youngster".  Maybe he will acquit himself well.  Given the dire need at tackle, I don't think beggers can be choosers. 

El Jeffe

September 12th, 2018 at 3:19 PM ^

I noticed the body language too--it would be hard not to--and decided to chalk it up to "fierce competitor who reacts involuntarily when his teammates aren't giving maximum effort even though he doesn't always either and within a few weeks of D-1 ball those visual frustration tics will be coached out of him" rather than the more critical alternative.


September 13th, 2018 at 12:54 PM ^

I would hope you are right... I worry that these michigan teams are missing that ummmmpppphhh that the great teams of the past had.  Attitude is everything.... the country club atmosphere with fancy gear and trips overseas is fine if you are winning.... but when you are not it just looks like you are an entitled program without results.