Even in the worst situations, you can often find silver linings if you look close enough. In regards to Virginia Tech’s 2020 season, Amare Barno was that silver lining.
Barno’s 2020 season was unexpected, to say the least. The former JUCO linebacker was making the switch to defensive end just as the COVID-related shutdowns put college football programs on lockdown. The most critical offseason of Barno’s collegiate career went down the tubes.
But that didn’t matter. Despite the limited practice time, Barno turned in one of the best individual performances of Virginia Tech’s 2020 season. And with Barno returning for the 2021 season, there’s no telling how much can improve.
Barno is starting his fifth year at a promising point. Barno led the Hokies in tackles for loss with 16.5, good enough for fourth in FBS. He also tied Justus Reed in sacks with 6.5 and registered 43 tackles, the most of any defensive lineman on the team.
For the first time in what’s felt like forever, Virginia Tech sported a semi-consistent pass rush with ends who can make plays off the edge. Barno played a critical role in that regard. Fans regularly saw Barno flying around the quarterback or chasing players down from behind.
But at 6-foot-6 and just 235 pounds, Barno has so much more he can achieve.
Barno enrolled at Virginia Tech as a linebacker from Butler Community College. Barno’s first offseason was spent preparing to play backer, which meant he needed to stay agile and relatively thin.
When Virginia Tech decided to put Barno’s hand in the dirt, they assuredly told him to bulk up. That will be the message again this offseason, an offseason that should be much more normal than last.
This is where Barno has the most room to grow, no pun intended. He already possesses the athleticism and agility necessary to impact the game as an edge player, but the physicality is lacking. Barno can change that.
We’ve seen Virginia Tech take undersized defensive ends and help them gain weight, even under Justin Fuente and Ben Hilgart‘s watch. TyJuan Garbutt has gained 23 pounds since arriving as a freshman and he’s dealt with all sorts of problems that have kept him from hitting the weight room hard. Emmanuel Belmar made the same move that Barno did and he’s gained 25 pounds.
Bill Teerlinck and Darryl Tapp are recruiting bigger players on their defensive front and Barno can fit into that scheme. Barno’s 2020 performance is evidence enough that Teerlinck and Tapp’s leadership and coaching is resonating.
Barno has the chance to be the best defensive end at Virginia Tech since Ken Ekanem. Barno has already posted the best season for an end since Ekanem’s 2014 season and he has more growth ahead of him.
Virginia Tech’s defense was the weaker of the three units for most of last season. If the Hokies are going to return to form on that side of the ball, maintaining a disruptive presence off the edge is paramount. Barno will be leading the way in 2021.