Outfitted in a white linen suit, Burns complimented it with pink alligator shoes, a mauve shirt, and a matching pink and mauve design tie. Called among other things "a courageous man" for wearing the outfit, Burns said that it took him over three weeks to find just the right style to wear to Hoover.
"I went to a lot of different stores looking for something until I decided on white," Burns said. "When I saw the shoes I knew that's what I wanted. Then I looked for a shirt and tie to match and put it all together."
One of the SEC's top returning defensive players, Burns is the star of a Kentucky team that will have a different make-up in 2004. Gone are the days of gunslinging with lefty Jared Lorenzen at the helm and they have been replaced with a defensive mentality under Coach Rich Brooks. A veteran of both the college and NFL ranks, Brooks is a players coach and Burns said he gets the most out of his players both on and off the field.
"He treats us the way he would treat his kids," Burns said. "He coaches us and talks to us on things as simple as how to act. He wants us to be business-like. He just basically talks to us on a level like that."
Kentucky isn't the only school that will replace a gunslinger this fall as Ole Miss Coach David Cutcliffe has the biggest job of all trying to deal with the loss of top quarterback Eli Manning. The SEC's top passer last season and a top draft pick of the New York Giants, Manning broke every record imaginable for the Rebels. Now the job belongs to fourth-year junior Michael Spurlock.
"When you replace a player, if the player has done it right it's actually harder to replace the actual playing on the field," Cutcliffe said of Manning. "Being the leader he (Manning) was it helped Michael Spurlock understudy him for three years and see it done right. He saw the kind of commitment and dedication it takes. Other players saw that and we had other good leaders a year ago. Anytime you're replacing your quarterback who has been a three-year starter for you and you're comfortable with, that is always an issue."
A versatile quarterback that can run and throw, Spurlock is a talented athlete, but his competence as a quarterback in a game situation has yet to be determined. Despite his lack of experience, Cutcliffe said he's convinced that Spurlock will bring some things to the table to make opponents sit up and take notice.
"We're certainly going to move the pocket with Michael Spurlock," Cutcliffe said. "He is the fastest quarterback that I have coached in my time. There is a lot of misdirection involved in our offense. Certainly he's capable of running the option and our back-ups are as well. The option is going to become a part of what we do. You'll see some pretty significant changes in our offensive strategy."
Some good news for Spurlock and the Rebel offensive attack is the return of one of the most experienced offensive lines in the SEC in 2004. Guards Doug Buckles and Marcus Johnson return along with tackle Tre Stallings and center Chris Spencer to give Ole Miss a solid nucleus to build on up front. Cutcliffe said the returning guys give him a feeling of being back on Rocky Top because of their physical style of play and the talent they possess.
"Our offensive line is certainly a strength," Cutcliffe said. "We may not be as deep as we were at times at Tennessee, but we're close to it and talented. That's a strong statement and I realize that we had some outstanding units and offensive linemen at Tennessee. The experience up front needs to help take some pressure off Michael Spurlock to help us be the best we can be as a team."