For those that missed part one, click here.
Like many of the other players on defense, Prescott Burgess believes that the unit will show a lot of improvement in 2006. The primary reason for that is the presence of new defensive coordinator, Ron English.
“Coach English…he’s a wild guy” Burgess said. “He gets us going. He’s just like one of us. I feel like if he wasn’t as old as he is, he would want to put on a uniform and a helmet and come out here with us.”
One of the unexpected benefits of having English at the helm has been the improved interaction with the players. The former defensive backs coach has made the effort to forge better connections with his players.
“He’s always a friend” said Burgess regarding English. “We gained a relationship where we can talk to each other and tell what’s on our minds. He has conversations with us that a normal coach wouldn’t. He talks to us like we are one of his friends. He’s here to teach us and be our coach, but he’s also here to be our friend and teach us things in life that he knows we are going to go through…things that he’s been through. He makes sure we overcome all the negative things that we’ll go through. He’s just a great guy. We go through meetings with him and he stays extra just to show us how much he cares about us and how much he means business.”
The defense got down to business all offseason, and Burgess feels that English's new aggressive scheme will take advantage of the wealth of talent on that side of the ball.
“Since I’ve been here, that’s been the talk…why can’t we just go out there and play… just go out there and roam around and make plays that we know we can make," Burgess said. "I feel that their giving us a little string right now. This team is feeling real good, healthy, conditioned…lean. We’re just ready to go out there and play and show that we can play with any team in this country. It doesn’t matter if it’s midnight or six o’ clock in the morning, we are ready to go and win games. I’m just ready to see what he’ll throw our defense into and what we are going to do this season, but I know we’ll get the job done.”
Part of the preparation for the new style of play was trimming down and becoming more explosive. Burgess acknowledged the defense focused on becoming faster during the off-season to help them accomplish their goals defensively.
“That was one of the keys this summer…getting leaner, faster and keeping our strength," he said. "If you ask me how many pounds we lost, it’s a lot. We are just out here to run around and make plays. People say Michigan is a Big Ten team that is known for running and not moving as fast as other teams like the ones in the SEC (conference). We are going to show everyone that we are out here to play with any team in the country."
The other ingredient to the planned turnaround was improved technique. Burgess credited new linebacker coach Steve Szabo with helping him and the other backers hone that part of their games.
“Coach Szabo…he’s always going to tell you the truth," Burgess said. "He’s never going to lie to you. He will respect each and every guy, and he wants everyone to treat him the same way. He’s been in the system forever. He knows what he’s talking about. He taught me what to expect and we do things like hand placement drills for when the lineman try to block us. We do blitz drills, everything we need help on. He gives us a little of whatever he knows. He wants the best for us and I thank him for coming out here and keeping it real with us. Some people might think other players are big-headed, but he keeps it level and shows that you're not above the team. I think you're going to see a whole different linebacker core, a whole different defense this year.”
Szabo instructs Burgess during the spring
Coach Szabo also challenged Burgess to elevate his game to keep his starting linebacker job heading into the 2006 season. The versatile youngster indicated that he will do whatever it takes to answer the call.
“He told me I have to get leaner, and play like I know how to play.
I understand what he’s talking about and I’m just going to go out
here and do whatever I can to prove that I deserve to be on the field and to
help this defense out. Anything to help the team. I just want to get out here
and win games. I want to come out here and be victorious in every game that
we play and take this team to the top. This is my last season here and we can’t
go out like we did last year.”