This good summer news from Mississippi State means a dozen defenses can expect fall problems. A full-speed Burks figures to give the Bulldog offense a great big boost, and right where it is needed, as the Gulfport native slots into one of the wideout jobs. The 2006 season can't get here soon enough to suit him.
"I'm ready," says Burks as he prepares for another afternoon in the weightroom. "I've been looking forward to it since I got here and began working out." Of course it's tempting to joke that even two-a-day practices are preferable to June workouts, but Burks is on the right track here. Signed to play, he is eager to get in uniform and on the field. And, to make up for the spring practice time he missed with a hamstring pull.
It only took about an hour of that camp for Burks, a mid-year transfer from Gulf Coast Comm. College, to show he can be just the play-making and game-breaking threat to fit State's specific offensive scheme. The juco all-star literally did give an instant infusion of pass-catching talent…for three days. Then while running a pattern on a cold March afternoon he felt it, the tension in back of his right thigh.
"It just came out of nowhere," recalls Burks, who knew immediately what had happened. "I had had it down at Gulf Coast, in my left leg. "I recognized it!"
His spring was over early, but those three days were sufficient for Coach Sylvester Croom to begin praising the newest addition to State's offensive repertoire. Burks heard it, but he hasn't assumed a place in the 2006 lineup is locked-up. Instead he is working out this off-season as if there is a job still to be earned.
"What Coach said, that just motivated me to come out and work even harder. I want to live up to what they think. I'm willing to do what it takes. I've been working hard."
Hard, and without fear. Burks does say that end-of-spring physical testing did show some lingering pain in the muscle. "It was hurting a little bit. But I went home and kept training myself, and now (that he is back for summer school) it's better, I've been running on it and everything."
Yes, running as if he'd never skipped a step since wrapping up a 44-catch, 638-yard sophomore season at MGCCC. Hamstring pulls are scary things to athletes who rely on speed and explosion to play their best, and in many cases it takes longer to re-hab the mind than the muscle itself. Some athletes are never entirely able to run with pre-injury abandon. Fortunately Burks is showing no ill-effects, whether in supervised workouts or informal throw-and-catch sessions afterwards.
"So it's doing pretty good," Burks says. "I haven't really been worrying about re-hurting or anything. If it happens I'll just try to work through it like last time." If anything he might ought to worry more about hurting a hand trying to pull in one of the bullets thrown by quarterback Mike Henig. Though, Burks laughs, it's not too hard for his hands. "Come on! He's got a good arm but I'm ready for him!"
Mississippi State folk are certainly ready to watch Burks do his on-field thing. He was listed officially as a ‘X' receiver in spring, the co-#1 flanker with senior Will Prosser. That camp tag doesn't mean much now. "I think I'm mostly playing ‘Z' from what they tell me," he says. Not that it matters either way because in State's system the split end and the flanker can be interchanged as needed for matchups. Prosser—sidelined all spring to be full-strength himself come August—and Burks know they are in a rotation atop the wideout depth chart along with senior Omarr Conner.
It's an interesting trio Burks is in, sandwiched between the even-keeled Prosser and the exuberant Conner. Not surprisingly the junior is more in-tune with the latter. "Omarr, he's pretty cool! He and I have been getting along pretty good. And I like talking noise myself! So me and Omarr are going to be alright."
Adding Burks means State's receiver corps is taking a big step in an alright direction. Though, it's not simple attaching a label to his personal style. What type of receiver is Burks: is he a speed, a big, a possession, a breakaway, a…what? "I'd say I'm all of them, when it comes to it," Burks says.
"I'm not going to say I'm the fastest guy but I can find a way to get away from the defensive backs. So I'd say I'm more of a possession receiver, I can go up and get it. And I can make yards after catching it. Now I have to work on my route-running."
He has another item to work on, getting to the exact assigned August reporting weight. "I weigh 212, 214," Burks reports. "They want me to get down to 210, I weighed 218 when I left after spring." Pounds, naturally, resulting from a limited camp schedule. July workouts should trim those.
For now, Burks is healthy and happy. He is also much more relaxed these days; the family disrupted ten months ago by Hurricane Katrina is settling into something closer to normal as his mother and sister just moved from a house to another apartment. "Things are better but it's still bad down there," says Burks. "It's just moving on."
And Burks has shown he can handle moving on to whatever comes next. So far, so good.