Former Arizona State inside linebackers coach Johnny Barr was signed, sealed and delivered to the Jayhawks by Allen on Thursday. Barr was dressed in crimson and blue while working with the linebackers during a spring practice Thursday afternoon at KU's practice fields.
"Well, I don't know a whole lot, except from what I've seen at the position I'm coaching, there's some talented players, I think," said Barr, who was with ASU from 1997-2000. "Do we have a lot of work to do? Yes, on my part and their part. I'm impressed with those guys. We've got a long way to go. After the first practice, that's understandable."
Allen was equally excited about his latest hire.
"The thing that impresses me the most about the Arizona State situation," Allen said, "the guy last year who was the (Pac-10) defensive player of the year (linebacker Adam Archuleta) was a walk-on, that Johnny coached for four years and he became the defensive player of the year.
"That tells me that the guy can coach."
Barr, who's trying to sell his home in Phoenix, certainly won't be at a loss for advice about relocating to Lawrence. He is the fifth coach to be added to the KU staff during the offseason, and another, Clint Bowen, was promoted to a full-time position.
The changes could do KU good, Barr said.
"A lot of times you kinda get stale maybe," he explained. "It seems like the continuity of a staff usually is because you're winning all the time. Guys stay and they're doing those things, changing or growing with each other. Then when the road gets a little rocky sometimes guys will get out or whatever the case may be " and hopefully that spark hits."
In fact, there are just two full-time assistants remaining from the conclusion of last season -- secondary coach Tim Burke and quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson.
"There's all sorts of new faces, but it's been really good," Allen said. "I really like the guys who we've gotten hired as far as coaches and people, and the kids have really bought into it. You can just tell from practice -- the tempo and the coaching and the guys getting around out there and the attention the kids have for the coaches and the coaches flying around.
"It's been a very good match."
Barr might be new to Lawrence, but he's no stranger to the league.
A 1970 graduate from Oklahoma, Barr played for two Big Eight champions. After being an assistant at various levels and locations, Barr ended up Oklahoma State in 1986 for the first of two tours of duty with the Cowboys, returning to coach at OSU from 1995-96 before bolting for Arizona State.
As a fun fact, he is one of just three former Oklahoma State coaches who played for and graduated from OU.
Barr's longest stint in the league, though, was as inside linebackers coach at his alma mater from 1989-94. While at OU, he worked with Tom Hayes -- then the Sooners' defensive coordinator who currently has the same title with KU.
Hayes is one of the many reasons why Barr joined the Jayhawks.
"There's a lot of things," Barr said. "I've been in the Big 12 and I like it. It's gets me back home. I've always felt Lawrence was a great place to live, from what people told me anyway. When I met coach Allen I was impressed with him and the things he was telling me.
"Of course my relationship with Tom Hayes really goes back a ways. I really enjoyed working with him before and we've stayed close. We've been friends for a long time," Barr added.
Allen hopes they remain coaches together at KU for an even longer time.
"I feel as though the players are genuinely excited about the coaches," Allen said, "and that's the most important thing."
The Jayhawk will take today off, returning to the field for Saturday morning's practice/scrimmage. Practice will begin at 10 a.m., likely at Memorial Stadium depending on the weather.
-- Sports writer Robert Sinclair can be reached at 832-7185.