Burney, Tipton Stepping Up

Ryan Walters and Edwin Harrison will have a battle on their hands to regain their starting positions once they return from injuries. Inside, a look at the situation, plus a Q&A with safety Ben Burney, who has been running with the first team while Walters has been sidelined.

Several Buffaloes have suffered minor injuries in August camp that have kept them out of practice. Included in the list of injured players spending time out of pads are a handful of starters. Sophomore safety Ryan Walters has missed the past 13 practices with a bad hamstring. Junior offensive tackle Edwin Harrison has been sidelined with a bad AC in his shoulder for more than a week, as well.

Both players were back in pads Monday morning, but aren't quite ready to go full speed. Sophomore safety Ben Burney and senior tackle Jack Tipton have been practicing with the first team in their respective positions while their teammates have been out with injuries. Walters and Harrison won't automatically be reinserted into the starting lineup once they're fully healthy.

Head coach Dan Hawkins thinks the "no player loses a spot on the depth chart due to injury" philosophy is nice in theory, but doesn't hold up in the real world of football.

"That's stuff always sounds great, but it's the old Wally Pipp story," Hawkins said Monday. "I'm sure old Wally got healed up at some point, but the other guy (Lou Gehrig) was playing pretty good.

"I've never guaranteed anybody their playing time when they come back. I think you have to look at where the team is and what's going on and how that person is playing that came in and what the guy that's injured that comes back can bring to your club."

Tipton played tackle his freshman year, half guard and half tackle his second year, before moving mostly to guard the following two seasons. He missed spring ball, recovering from knee surgery, but offensive line coach Chris Strausser had Tipton watching film of both guard and tackle play in order to be ready at both spots in August. Tipton practiced at guard the first week of camp, but moved to tackle last week when Harrison went down.

"I love it. It's good," Tipton said of protecting the edge. "Obviously, different technique and footwork, but I like it out there."

Strausser said earlier in camp that Tipton looked like the offensive line's sixth man because of his ability to play guard or tackle. Whether or not he's cracked the top five will be decided in the coming practices as Harrison makes his way back.

Burney, the 5-11, 190-pound defensive back from Mullen, too will have a fight on his hands when Walters is cleared to go full speed — as early as Wednesday. Coaches love Walters' playmaking ability at safety, but Burney has done well in recent practices.

Burney played in four games in 2005 as a true freshman at cornerback, but was moved to safety when Walters went down.

Here's what Burney had to say after Monday's practice:

BSN: How's your camp going?
: It's going good. All the fellows are working hard. This is a different camp than last year. We've just got to stay mentally focused. But all in all I think it's going well.

BSN: How is it different?
: Last year was my first year here so I really didn't know what to expect. This year it's longer, and we have more two-a-days. So we really have to stay focused. Every night you have to stay in your playbook. Even if you've learned something, you have to go back and re-learn it. It's really more football oriented. We don't have too many days off. Sometimes it takes its toll on your body, but it keeps us focuses. I really enjoy it actually.

BSN: How much did you play safety last year in practice?
: I started at safety before they moved me to corner. But in practice, I really didn't play too much safety.

BSN: What about the spring?
: I played more corner than safety.

BSN: When did they come to you about playing some safety?
: When Ryan Walters kind of pulled his hamstring (over a week ago). I played safety in high school. I was recruited as a safety, too. They said, ‘We're just going to throw you in at safety.' It's pretty natural to me. I like both safety and corner.

BSN: Coach Brown says one of the obvious things he likes about you is you're a coach's son. (Burney's father is defensive line coach of the Denver Broncos). How much do you think growing up around football helps your game?
: It's basically being around the whole system. Knowing when to be quiet. Knowing when to pay attention, knowing when to take notes. Once you know when to be serious and when you can play around it makes it much easier. When you need to buckle down and get into your playbook. That's what I think I've learned from being a coach's son more than anything. Seeing my Dad working really hard and learning the schemes.

BSN: What is your favorite thing about being a defensive back, whether it's safety or corner?
: You get to knock receivers out the whole time. At safety, you get to come down hill and blow up running backs, like Sean Taylor or Ronnie Lott. At corner, if you're playing ‘jam,' you get to jam receivers up and take them to the ground. It's an authority thing. It's great playing on this side of the ball. I like defense.

BSN: What are your expectations for yourself for this season?
: I expect great things. I see everyone working really hard and everything, and I know everyone's going to step up their game once we start playing. I expect the same thing of myself. I expect to make plays. I expect to play a lot. Injuries may come and everything, but I'll stay strong minded. Even when it doesn't look good, if you stay up and keep working hard it will affect everyone, and I know we'll have a good season.

BSN: How is Ryan coming along?
: He was in pads today. He finally came out today. I think he said he was coming back fully on Wednesday.

BSN: So once he comes back fully, you guys will be fighting for this position.
: Yeah, we'll be fighting for this position. It should be some good competition.

• The Buffs practiced in the morning Monday. They'll conduct a two-a-day Tuesday (9-11:30 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.), and they're the final practices of August camp that are open to the public. After Monday's practice, Hawkins said, "Are we where we need to be? No. Will we be? Yeah."

• The Buffs will start working in scout teams and working on the Montana State game plan on Wednesday.

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