Burgess exceeding projections

University of Louisville junior linebacker James Burgess started all 13 games as a sophomore and finished third on the team in tackles. Cardinal Authority has a feature on the Homestead, Fla., product.

When linebacker James Burgess committed to the University of Louisville over Miami and a host of others in January 2012, many believed that the Cardinals signed a prospect with plenty of upside.

Missing most of his senior season at Homestead (Fla.) High School with a hand injury, it's probable that Burgess was underrated. Rated as a solid three-star prospect that ranked among the top 100 outside linebackers in the nation, he was also a defensive captain at the Semper Fi All-American game.

Burgess quickly proved that to be the case as a true freshman and has continued to surpass expectations during his first two seasons at U of L.

As a freshman he appeared in 10 games, starting 4, and recorded 28 tackles, plus a pair of interceptions. He capped off his first season in a Cardinal uniform with 3 tackles, including one for a loss Louisville's 33-23 win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

A starter in all 13 games in 2013, Burgess registered 72 tackles, including 9 for a loss and a sack, which is tops among those returning from last season.

"I just try to do the best that I can when I'm on the field," he said. "I keep working because I know that I am still learning and getting better."

Maintaining his starting role from last season, Burgess should continue his impressive play in the new 3-4 scheme. He remains focused on being better each day, which includes becoming even more of a threat against the pass.

“He has a good understanding of pass coverage and pass routes,” U of L inside linebackers coach Tony Grantham said. “He understands what offenses are trying to do with him and how they are trying to isolate on him.”

He's also being asked to carry more leadership responsibility, something that Burgess is eager to accept.

“Discipline plays a big role with Coach Grantham,” said Burgess. “He's very strict that he wants us to always play with good fundamentals and techniques.”

Using that focus on executing the smallest of details, Burgess agrees with the statement by sophomore Keith Brown that this year's Cardinal linebackers can be the best group at their position in the country.

“I feel like we can be number one in the country, as well,” he said following a strong outing in Saturday morning's scrimmage.

Burgess has 99 career tackles, including 11 for a loss and a sack. He's also tallied 3 interceptions and has a pair of forced fumbles.

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