Bloomington, Ind. – Three days ago Keith Burrus was competing with Charlie Emerson at defensive end. Now he's lining up opposite of him.
While Emerson's move has been the biggest move of fall camp thus far, the emergence of the 6-2,269-pound Burrus has been arguably the biggest surprises. A late addition to the Hoosiers' 2006 roster in June, Burrus' rapid climb up the depth chart helped make Emerson's move earlier this week possible.
"I'm pushing myself hard, and it's paying off," Burrus said. "I feel good about it. We're trying to get the best players on the field."
Despite his short stint in Bloomington, Burrus is proving to be one of those players who needs to be on the field. A 2005 graduate of Indianapolis' Ben Davis H.S., Burrus spent last season at Coffeyville J.C., where he sat out the year as a redshirt. That leaves him with four years of eligibility at IU.
IU Assistant Coach Billy Lynch, who recruits the state of Indiana, kept tabs on Burrus since he was at Ben Davis in 2004. Once he enrolled at Coffeyville Lynch continued to have an eye on him, and he ultimately chose IU over Iowa State and Missouri, among others, over the summer.
Along with Kenny Kendal and Jammie Kirlew, he's in a group of defensive ends that faces a tough task this fall – replacing 2005 starters Victor Adeyanju and Ben Ishola. That duo combined for 18.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, and both are currently in NFL training camps.
But IU defensive line coach Brian George has been impressed by what he's seen from Burrus in the early going.
"He's a guy that's come along and come on strong," George said. "He's practiced well and learned the defense, which is hard for a guy coming in that wasn't here last fall or in the spring. He has the tools to be a really good player for us."
Those tools include the ability to be heavily involved in stopping the run as well as being someone who can put pressure on the quarterback.
"I can bring athleticism, size and speed to the field," Burrus said. "I have to stay with it, keep learning, but I think I can do a good job and help."
Burrus isn't your typical freshman since he is a year older after spending a season at the junior college ranks. But he's still been with the IU team for less than two weeks, making his quick rise up the depth chart a surprise to George.
"Any newcomer that comes in and proves he's ready to play is a surprise," George said. "As a coach, you'd like to think the guys that you've recruited are going to be good players, but you never expect them to come in the first year and contribute, just because they don't know what they don't know."
Burrus has proven to know more than enough to not only earn playing time, but also to make the staff confident they could move Emerson to the other side of the ball.
"It's very exciting," Burrus said. "To play Division I football, not a lot of people get a chance to do that. I have a chance to play with some great athletes and for a great program. I can't wait."
Burrus Bursts Out of the Gate
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