Once upon a time, Freddy Burton was a skinny safety and wideout for Morrilton.
Three years later, the senior could very well be the Man in the Middle for the University of Arkansas.
Burton (6-2, 238) – much heavier than when he first arrived as an 180-pounder – appears to have taken over the job as the first-team middle linebacker spot for the Razorbacks.
"There have been a lot of changes since high school," Burton said. "I have gained about 60 pounds and all that coming down from safety to the outside and now to the middle."
Burton said it doesn't matter whether he plays at strongside, weakside or in the middle – all three places he has now been slotted during his time at Arkansas.
"It's whatever," Burton said. "I just want to play. Wherever Coach (Willy Robinson) puts me I just want to go out and play. Linebacker is linebacker."
Senior Jermaine Love went into camp as the first-team Mike linebacker with inexperienced sophomores Terrell Williams and Austin Moss backing him up.
Just over a week into practice and Burton and starting outside linebacker Jerry Franklin were thrust into the middle to get the reps instead of the other two.
"It is just the physical nature," Burton said of the difference in the outside and middle spots. "You deal with a lot more linemen in the middle. It is just the physical nature shedding the blockers and all that. Once I get that down I should be alright."
Love has missed the last few practices allowing Burton to take the step forward in that battle.
"I know he is out, but I know that when he comes back he is going to come back working hard just like I have been," Burton said. "I just have to keep doing what I have been doing and keep listening to the coaches."
Burton believes that the Arkansas defense – which has been a much-maligned unit the past few season - has a chance to turn into a good one if it just focuses on the task at hand.
"We always know as a defense that we can play, it is just a matter of us going out, showing it and executing the defense," Burton said. "We just want to come in and day in and day out and execute and do what we do."
He thinks improved depth - and thus improved - play from the defensive line is going to make the linebackers more of a force.
"The guys up front, the D-line are keeping us pretty clean," Burton said. "We are able to just go out there and run to the ball…As long as we go out there and run to the ball and play error-free football we should be just fine."
Manning the Middle
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