GILMER -- After losing a pair of standout quarterbacks to graduation, the proud tradition of excellence at the Gilmer quarterback position was about to be entrusted to someone who had not taken a snap since junior high.

The 2011 duo of Luke Turner (now at Rice) and Jordan Traylor teamed up for 4,255 total yards and 49 touchdowns, and the incumbent didn't even play on offense the year before.

Gilmer junior quarterback Tanner Barr was busy affecting the game at free safety, recording 11 interceptions on the way to an all-state sophomore campaign. Switching Barr to quarterback may have seemed strange to the outside world, but it came as a surprise to no one inside the Buckeyes' field house.

Gilmer's Tanner Barr looks for an opening during the Buckeyes' playoff win over Argyle on Nov. 30. (Christopher Vinn,

"We always have six quarterbacks in the seventh grade and we’re going to work from there," Gilmer coach Jeff Traylor said. "You could go through our offense and all those kids have all been quarterbacks before.”

Barr was in competition with fellow junior Jaidon Parrish and sophomore McLane Carter for the starting quarterback job during the preseason workouts. When Carter went down with an injury in practice, it came down to Barr and Parrish.

Barr admitted being a little rusty at the outset.

"It was a little difficult to get it rolling again, my mechanics were a little off," he said. "With just a little work, I was back at it.”

Traylor and the Gilmer coaching staff took notice.

Gilmer quarterback Tanner Barr has passed for 25 touchdowns this season after racking up 11 interceptions as a safety last year. (Christopher Vinn,

“We just felt like our offense ran better with Tanner," Traylor said. "Jaidon’s a fantastic, fullback, tight end, wide receiver … a dual-purpose player. We hated losing Tanner at safety, that was a knock having to move him. But he played well in the scrimmages and played really well in the last scrimmage, and he has just continued to get better each week.”

Barr didn't find out he'd won the job until days before the season opener against Atlanta.

“We had split time during two-a-days, all that practice time and we split time in the scrimmages," Barr said. "Fortunately I got the job, and ever since I’ve kinda taken the role of leading the offense, being a leader, being vocal, being positive around my teammates."

Barr's father, Ty Barr, is an assistant coach. And while Traylor admits that has helped Barr's progression at the quarterback position, it had no barring on his decision to name him the starter.

"There’s no doubt that’s contributed to him becoming a better football player," he said. "The team loves him. He knows what to say, when to say it and he’s progressed as a really good quarterback.”

For the season, Barr has thrown for 2,873 yards and 25 touchdowns, completing passes at a 62-percent clip. He also ranks second on the team in rushing with 849 yards and five TDs.

Oh, and his one reception this year was a 3-yard touchdown in Gilmer's 41-34 regional final victory over district rival Henderson on Dec. 7.

Gilmer quarterback Tanner Barr looks for an open receiver during the Buckeyes' 41-34 playoff win over Henderson on Dec. 7 in Longview. (Christopher Vinn,

“At the beginning of the year I know we started a little slow, but every practice and every game we just work harder," Barr said. "I really am proud of our offense and we’ve come a long way since the first game.”

Barr admits that his experience reading quarterbacks as a safety has paid dividends this season.

“Back there when I was playing safety last year, we’d read the quarterback’s camera," he said. "And this year, you read the safeties. It helps me manipulate them a little bit.”

Barr recalled a perfect example, coming during the Buckeyes' 51-36 bi-district playoff win.

“In the Canton game, when I hit Slade (Morris) on about a 50- or 60-yard touchdown," he said. "They had one safety and I looked him off and he started moving to the right and I just threw right behind him.”

Barr might be the counterpart to Navasota all-state quarterback Ka'Darius Baker during Friday afternoon's Class 3A Division II state championship game, but he said he's most worried about the Rattlers' defense.

“They’re athletic and big," he said of Navasota's defense, which allows just 7.1 points per game. "They’re fast, strong, quick … they’re great. We’re going to get out there and give it the best we have. They’re big like Kilgore, but their defensive scheme, we haven’t seen one like it this year."