NU Football Practice

Husker sophomore linebacker Mohamed Barry believes he'll thrive in Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense.

Mohamed Barry moved from one continent to another as a little kid. He knows what real change is like.

He lived in Africa for most of the first six years of his life before moving to Georgia. He knew three other languages before he learned English.

So this football stuff, getting a new defensive coordinator and new scheme — that's not exactly the kind of change that's going to knock the wind out of Barry. In fact, this change might have the Nebraska sophomore linebacker running with the wind behind his back.

Just see what he says when asked about the toughest adjustment for him in Bob Diaco's 3-4 scheme.

"None. It fits me."

When it was announced Diaco was the man to lead the Blackshirts, Barry heard people tell him this defense was made for him.

That's just talk. Barry didn't want to get lost in all that talk by others. He was more interested in hearing from the main source.

"I'm just, like, 'I don't care.' I need to see for myself,'" Barry said. "And then when Diaco came in, and I started learning, I feel more alive. I love what he's talking."

Diaco had his attention from the first time the coach walked into a room to talk to Barry and some of his teammates.

"At first, I see a pretty boy," Barry said with a laugh. "He came in with a smooth suit. I remember it was, like, a maroon suit, looking clean. I was like 'Whoa.' I Googled him and I saw what he did at other schools. I've seen the other players I used to look up to, like Manti (Te'o)."

For someone like Barry, who is working as a weakside linebacker in this new defense, you can understand why seeing how Te'o thrived under Diaco's guidance at Notre Dame is inspiring.

Te'o didn't just stop people from making plays. He made his own.

"When he was there, that's a linebacker who changed the game, getting his hands on the ball and getting interceptions more than just a (stop the) run player."

The inside backer role feels comfortable to Barry even though in high school, back in Grayson, Georgia, he thrived in wide-open space. He was often used like a safety.

"They just told me to make plays, and I did it," Barry said.

That play-making ability is why Nebraska had a lot of company trying to recruit Barry.  Miami and Kansas State were also finalists for the linebacker. So important was Barry to the 2015 class that Mike Riley and three assistants came to see him for a crucial in-home visit that January.

That, and Barry's close connection with linebackers coach Trent Bray, tipped the decision Nebraska's way.

He redshirted his first season in 2015 and had shoulder surgery. Last year was mostly special-teams work. He finished with six tackles, and a fumble recovery in the bowl game.

Now is Year 3. He wants to grow his role in Lincoln the same way he has his size. Added size necessary to take on the role he holds.

Getting the early spring reps at his position behind junior and two-year starter Dedrick Young, Barry is 11 pounds heavier than he was a year ago. He's 6-foot-1, 230 pounds.

Getting to that weight is no small commitment from him.

"To be honest, I was scared to go from 208 to any higher," said Barry, before recalling a conversation from two years ago. "Coach Bray just smiled at me and said,'Yeah, you're going to gain weight.'"

Bray told Barry's mom that the linebacker would be up to 225, maybe even 230 by his junior year. Are you crazy? Barry thought. I'm going to lose all my speed.

He listened, though.

"Believing in my coaches. They told me to put on weight and I did it," Barry said. "I feel more powerful, strong, and it's balanced speed. It used to be out-of-control a little bit. Now I feel more balanced."

He's a guy to watch, according to one of his former teammates, Josh Banderas, who recently brought up Barry unsolicited as someone he thinks could rise up in the linebacker competition.

"Mo Barry's always got his nose in the right spot," said Banderas, who has admired the extra attention Barry gives to his craft to try to get better.

As a kid, Barry saw what hard work gets a person. He saw it from his mom, Kadiatou Bah, who runs a successful hair-braiding salon.

"She made her own business. It came from a small business to her hiring, like, eight people. ... She worked every day. When she was hurting, when she was sore, she still got out of bed to provide for her family," Barry said. "So since I was young, I always worked hard.

"It's not like I'm doing it to impress no one. It's really what I believe in. I would feel weird if I'm not doing that. I would feel like a failure."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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