WINTER GARDEN, Florida — Woody Barrett is sore.
The West Orange High School senior has been busy lifting weights, throwing footballs and getting his body ready for offseason drills when he arrives at Auburn this summer. He’s the future face of the Auburn football program, and he doesn’t know if that means the hard work will translate to playing time this season or two years from now.
Either way, Barrett is preparing to be Auburn’s quarterback.
“Yeah, honestly,” he told SEC Country. “But it’s not going to be easy. If I just come up there and do what I’ve got to do, put in the hard work, be a leader and be coachable, I can do anything. I can make good things happen.”
The four-star prospect, rated the nation’s No. 6 dual-threat quarterback, weighs 232 pounds and is a load to bring to the turf. He’s elusive, he’s fast and as a passer he’s accurate down the field. He’s also raw, but coaches have drooled over the possibilities he could present with some polishing on the practice fields.
“I’m still a work in progress,” Barrett said.
“He’s so strong and physical,” marvels West Orange High coach Bob Head. “He’s like a college kid now and I can’t imagine in a couple years what he’s going to look like.”
The first steps of a successful college football career can be tougher to absorb than an SEC linebacker drilling a quarterback’s rib cage. Offseason drills and conditioning at 6 a.m. are not necessarily a regular occurrence for Barrett, who is easily the best player on the field in high school. He admits to not being mentally prepared for what awaits him this summer at Auburn, “but I’m trying to get ready.”
Still, he sees a wide-open door in east Alabama, where fourth-year Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has not ruled out the possibility of the true freshman taking the reins at quarterback. The Tigers’ quarterback troubles of 2015 still shadow the program, and while the arrival of junior college transfer John Franklin III has provided more confidence, coaches are still weighing their options before a crucial season for the program.
“He’s excited for the opportunity. He wants to take the job,” Head said. “That’s his mentality. Me, as a coach, I’d love to see him redshirt and learn and develop because I know what it would do for him mentally. Physically he’s ready to play, but I’m ready for him to get there this summer. A lot will be told how he adjusts and how quick he picks it up.”
Barrett’s plan for the summer is simple: “Keeping my head low, working hard,” he said. “Catching up with the tempo. Just being a quiet leader, I think, and then ease my way into it because I’m just a freshman. People might look at me like, he’s just a freshman, he thinks he can run a team. It’s not like that. I have a plan and I feel like if we all come together as one, we can make something happen.”
Barrett is still raw as a quarterback, Head said. His release isn’t as lightning quick as coaches desire and there are some mechanics he needs to polish. His talent, however, can not be denied.
“He can take over a game, just with his combination of athletic abilities and his arm,” said Collin Drafts, who served as Barrett’s offensive coordinator in high school. “When we got him, he was extremely raw. It was really awesome for me because as a quarterback coach and offensive coordinator it was almost like I got this raw block that I got a chance to sculpt into this quarterback. If you get to pick the attributes you would want physically, he had all of them.”
Barrett’s 6-foot-2 frame certainly is a sight, and it fairly and unfairly draws comparisons to former Auburn great Cam Newton, who Barrett idolizes on and off the field. “You watch his film, he looks like Cam Newton in high school,” Drafts said.
Barrett shattered records at West Orange High as a senior, throwing for 2,018 yards and rushing for 1,413 yards while scoring 43 total touchdowns. He did not play in at least a portion of eight of the 14 games on the schedule because of blowout scores, so his numbers could have easily been even better. He was named the Class 8A Player of the Year for his efforts.
Barrett’s numbers are certainly gaudy, but Auburn fans may need to pump the brakes on the expectations. They may have to wait a year or two before they see Barrett as their starting quarterback. Still, there’s that door Malzahn cracked open in the spring. Soon this three-man race among Jeremy Johnson, Sean White and Franklin will transform into a four-man show at quarterback.
Barrett’s message to his future teammates and competitors in the quarterback battle? “I’m coming,” he said, smiling. “That’s it. I’m coming.”
“I wouldn’t bet against him,” Head said. “I promise you that. I don’t care what they have up there, Woody Barrett will walk in their drills right now and act like he’s been there a couple of years. Arm strength, foot speed, mobility, toughness, shoot, I don’t know what they’ve got. I watched their spring game on TV and I know Woody Barrett has a ton of talent. I mean, tons of talent.”