COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- If you didn't do a double-take three years ago when he hit campus, you may have mistaken Florida product Chandler Burkett for a big receiver or a thin tight end.
At 6-foot-3, 215-pounds, the long and rangy OLB/rush-end late recruit pickup for Randy Edsall's staff had a good frame and active motor, but hardly the stuff of defensive end material in the B1G Ten.
But flash-forward a few years, and the Panama City native Burkett, now a rising senior in the fall, is up to 250 pounds and manning said defensive end spot for the Terps after transitioning full-time from the BUCK spot where he played much of last year.
And that was a season the easy-going, amiable Floridian, who ranks among the most popular Terps among teammates, started the final eight games and racked up 32 tackles, four tackles for a loss, three pass breakups, two sacks and even two blocked PATs for good measure for the bowl-bound Terrapins under first-year coach D.J. Durkin.
What jumps out most about Burkett, who is still gaining the necessary strength and base to tangle in the B1G at end, is his motor and 'coachability,' which rate among the tip-top Terps in those categories. The former three-star recruit was at first an FIU commit, but jumped to Maryland, which was his first Power 5 offer. He’s been one of the team’s hardest workers ever since.
"Focus on our gap fits, where we're supposed to be, and being reliable and playing hard and getting to the ball,” he said, summing up his own mantra pretty well. “We lost a lot of seniors last year, which is going to be hard to replace. I am playing end now, I was playing BUCK, but now myself and other people have to step up."
It’s not all new for Burkett, who is versatile and smart enough to pick things up fast. Very fast. In fact, he may be one of the quickest reads on the team, and no coincidence he enjoys reading most in his spare time.
"Luckily, I played some end at the beginning of [last] season, so it's not like a total transition. And I played end a lot in high school. So it's just focusing on, and getting my eyes on, the tip of the pad when I got the ‘shade’ technique and stuff like that. Get my eyes where they are supposed to be and knowing my gap."
Burkett said his new DL coach, Jimmy Brumbaugh, who replaced Mike London when he took the head job at Howard this winter, has made a quick impact this spring.
"It's a big boost for us. He’s helping us out a lot, and the defense is getting a lot better because you’ve got two minds going into it now," Burkett said.
Inside, tackles Kingsley Opara and Cavon Walker are setting the tone, while there are several young BUCKs coming up in the ranks in Burkett’s former spot. He said he likes his own new starting spot, but now wants to take it to the next level.
"It's a great experience not having to prove myself anymore," he said. "But now I want to prove even further what I can do, and show them [the staff] I can take it to the next level now.”