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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 26, Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 26, ISSUE 6 29 K irk Barron heaps praise on Robert Kugler, for the knowledge the wise multi-year start- ing center bestowed, for the time the two-time captain spent building him up and barking at him, for the toughness he modeled. Barron truly is grateful for Kugler. But he's also glad he's gone. Because now, finally, Barron is getting a chance to show he can be the key cog in the middle of Purdue's offensive line, the center who runs the show, works the adapted-but-just-right husky voice to gather players in a huddle and welcomes the pressure of decision-making and protection-caller. "I've been working pretty long and hard for this," Barron said of the opportunity. "I think physically I'm definitely ready, in the weight room. You look around, I am the strongest guy or one of the strongest guys in the weight room, and it's just kind of like, 'OK, well, if I lift more weights, it makes more sense, I can move these people off the line of scrimmage.' So that makes sense to me, physically. Mentally, I've had al- most three years of studying. "I'll be fine, I think." Though he hasn't had many game snaps at center since he's been at Purdue — Kugler end- ed his career with a starting streak and rarely missed a snap — Barron does enter his third season already having made a start up front. After playing about 50 offensive snaps against Iowa in a backup role last season, at least half of those filling in for guard Jason King after he was hurt in the game, Barron earned a spot start in King's place in the finale against Indiana. He played every snap at left guard, and though it wasn't where he'll line up this season, the experience was a blessing. Barron more than held up on the inside, and that largely was because of the body he's built. His squat numbers are eye-pop- ping — he hit 700 pounds in the back squat in the summer — and his power clean numbers keep rising, giving him incredi- ble power in his lower body. Combined with his stature — he's listed at 6-foot-2 — and bend, Barron's able to get great leverage and make it tough for interior linemen to get penetration. "In the weight room, he's a freak," tight end Cole Herdman said. "He's constantly working on getting his game better, both mentally and in the weight room. I think he's going to have a great breakout year for us. He likes the pressure." Most of the "pressure" likely will be mental. Barron's preparation and football IQ, knowledge of defenses and firm grasp of Purdue's protec- tions are critical. Consistent time spent watching film helps — Kugler's the one who taught him what and how to watch — and Barron says he feels comfortable he can get the group in the right spots. Others think he's ready, too. "With Kugler there, he was in the shadow," King said. "I never worried about if Kirk was go- ing to be able to step in or anything like that just because I've spent enough time around him to know what he was capable of. He's always had the talent and ability." — Stacy Clardie Center Of Attention Barron moves into spotlight

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