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Barwin surfaces at backer

Posted: 11:50 a.m.

INDIANAPOLIS - 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 NFL Draft with his two-way performance in last month's Senior Bowl, Barwin arrived Saturday at the podium with 3-4 outside linebacker next to his name as well as defensive end and tight end.

"It's kind of intriguing that a lot of teams see me rising at that position because that's the one I haven't played," said Barwin, the University of Cincinnati product who went from one of the Big East'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's decision to move him to end before his senior year. The Bengals coaching staff worked with Barwin at the Senior Bowl and while they used him in nickel situations at end they played and practiced him primarily at tight end.

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

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

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

UC is going to be playing the 3-4 now that defensive coordinator Joe Tracy got canned by Kelly after the signing date even though defense was the major reason the Bearcats got to the Orange Bowl.

"It's a big surprise; no one knew about it," Barwin said. "I think Coach Kelly wants to run a 3-4. When I was there, they felt it would have been better if they used Angelo Craig in a 3-4 more often. I think they've got the athletes now to play a 3-4. I think he sees what NFL 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 for sure because he doesn't have a guy that Barwin may be turning into. A Peter Boulware-David Pollack type that plays SAM linebacker on early downs 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 defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer did so well in his first season running a 4-3.

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

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