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Barwin surfaces at backer

NDIANAPOLIS - Just another day in the life of Connor Barwin. Which means, ho-hum, another position.

After emerging as the fastest-rising player in the 2009 NFLDraft with his two-way performance in last month's Senior Bowl, Barwinarrived Saturday at the podium with 3-4 outside linebacker next to hisname as well as defensive end and tight end.

"It's kind of intriguing that a lot of teams see me rising atthat position because that's the one I haven't played," said Barwin,the University of Cincinnati product who went from one of the BigEast's top tight ends to its leading sacker last year as an end.

"It's exciting to me to think about playing that position knowing my own personal skill sets."

Which are: Athleticism, pass-rush skills, good hands.

All the things that translated into UC head coach Brian Kelly'sdecision to move him to end before his senior year. The Bengalscoaching staff worked with Barwin at the Senior Bowl and while theyused him in nickel situations at end they played and practiced himprimarily at tight end.

But head coach Marvin Lewis felt even then Barwin's interestswere on defense and the combine agreed when it assigned him to workwith the D-line. Barwin agreed, too.

"I'm lying if I didn't say I really found a passion forplaying defense and just being on an attack mode," Barwin said. "It wasa lot of fun playing defensive end this year. I really enjoyed it."

The Bengals will no doubt get a good look at him during thedefensive linemen workout because a group of them breaks off for anoutside backer drill devised by Bengals linebackers coach JeffFitzGerald. At 6-3 and 256 pounds, Barwin fits the specs and he thinkshe could have played it in college.

UC is going to be playing the 3-4 now that defensivecoordinator Joe Tresey got canned by Kelly after the signing date eventhough defense was the major reason the Bearcats got to the OrangeBowl.

"It's a big surprise; no one knew about it," Barwin said. "Ithink Coach Kelly wants to run a 3-4. When I was there, they felt itwould have been better if they used Angelo Craig in a 3-4 more often. Ithink they've got the athletes now to play a 3-4. I think he sees whatNFL teams are doing. Coach Kelly likes to do everything like the NFL.That's how he runs it."

The Bengals drafted Craig last year in the seventh round, but he was too much of a tweener (between end and backer) to stick.

Lewis is still flirting with a 3-4 but hasn't decided on it forsure because he doesn't have a guy that Barwin may be turning into. APeter Boulware-David Pollack type that plays SAM linebacker on earlydowns and rushes the passer on passing downs.

But a few reasons why Barwin won't be that guy in Cincinnati:

Lewis indicated Friday it's too late to switch after defensivecoordinator Mike Zimmer did so well in his first season running a 4-3.

Plus, after the first round the Bengals are going to be lookingfor running backs, wide receivers, and offensive linemen. They'd love apass rusher, but the high second round is probably too high for Barwinand he most likely won't be there when the Bengals pick in the third.

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