After a solid spring, Burl played well at the beginning of camp. He hit a blip on the radar screen last week, but defensive backs coach Craig Bray said Wednesday Burl has improved in recent days. That's evident in several areas, including his defending of the long bombs.
"He's been playing with confidence, and doing things that we haven't seen him do before," Bray said. "Last year he was in great position on deep balls and wasn't making plays. Now he's starting to do that."
Burl, who started nine games in 2004, said thing are clicking for him. Bray's method of teaching how to read the offensive players in order to get into position and make plays was new to Burl and the rest of the defensive backs when Bray came on board last fall camp. But Burl has found a comfort zone with the Bray's way of doing things.
"I'm recognizing the three- and five-step route, watching the quarterback, the receivers' body language," Burl said of his improvement over last year. "It's easier to read so it's easier to relax and play."
So solid has Burl been that Bray said, "Right now he's probably our most consistent cover corner."
Burl's partner in crime last season, and so far this fall, is fellow junior cornerback Lorenzo Sims. But Sims has been slowed lately in practice, battling through some nagging injuries, including a toe and issues in both knees. Sims has been toughing it out in practice, but it's unclear how effective he will be if his physical condition doesn't improve.
"We've got to prepare for the fact that Lorenzo may not be healthy," Bray said. "He's struggling right now. He can't run. I don't know how he does what he does."
That means Bray has been spending extra time with juco transfer corner Terry Washington, meeting with him individually two or three times a day to go over the mental side of the position. Some days, Washington looks brilliant, others he looks lost – what you'd expect from someone trying to assimilate a new way to play his position in new surroundings.
"I think Terry Washington will be there, it's just a constant learning process," Bray said.
Bray also said true freshman Gardner McKay Jr. continues to improve. Sophomore Stephone Robinson is also in the mix. However, he has a recurring hamstring issue that's flared up again. Among those five players, Bray said "we've got to come up with at least three that we feel comfortable with in a game situation."
Burl says the competition at cornerback this fall has been "way tougher than last year and the spring. It's tough, but it's making me and everybody else play better."
Despite his slight stature, Burl says he's always felt comfortable with the physical side of the game. Tuesday, Burl came up in run support and took running back Lawrence Vickers to the ground on one play.
"Even though you're my size, if you're playing in the Big 12 you're playing against big receivers and big running backs," Burl said. "You can't be scared to hit. It's when you half speed, that's when you get hurt. No matter how big you are if you go full speed, it really doesn't hurt.
"I'm one of those guys that likes to make big hits, big plays."
The Buffs will need big plays out of its cornerbacks this fall if the team's overall defense is to improve.
On the move
CU players and coaches will help CU students moving into dorms Thursday. The team did a similar thing in 2003, but not last year.
Two a day
The Buffs practiced once in the morning in pads, then practiced in the afternoon in shorts and jerseys, no pads. Special teams work and unit work were the focus of the afternoon practice. Stephone Robinson, Reggie Joseph and Chase McBride continue to work as the team's punt returners. …Redshirt-freshman linebacker Brad Jones suffered a hip flexor injury and will miss a week.
Thursday's practice will run from 4-6:30 p.m.