A Learning Experience

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Redshirt freshman Juston Burris was listed as the backup to junior cornerback David Amerson when the depth chart was released for the opener. No one expected him to play 63 snaps against Tennessee. How did he do?

Redshirt freshman Juston Burris was listed as the backup to junior cornerback David Amerson when the depth chart was released for the opener.

No one expected him to play 63 snaps against Tennessee, but he did and in his first game he had faced arguably the most talented set of wideouts he'll see all year in Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter.

"I think [Burris] was a little tentative," Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien said on Monday. "I think he got a little scared when they ran by [David] Amerson early. He wasn't going to get run by."

"It was nerve wracking, but once I got in the flow of the game it was easier," said Burris. "You start to realize that it's all a game. You come out with the bright lights on, but you have to play it like a high school game. I started looking at it like I was back playing at Broughton. That's what I started to do once the game got going... settle down and play my game.

"Playing against a good team like that, they have some great players so you'll be a little nervous. I'm satisfied with my performance, but I can do better."

Burris finished the game with eight tackles and a pass breakup, and his seven solo hits impressed O'Brien.

"I think he can be more aggressive than he was, but he tackled," said O'Brien. "I think that's the one thing that stood out. He didn't miss anybody. They may have caught the ball, but he got them down. He made a good play on the post to 11 when they threw it up one time.

"I think it was a good start for him. Playing against those receivers, we may see them once or twice more this year... skill-level like we saw on Friday night."

"It shows that I can play and make plays on this level," said Burris. "It shows that I can go out and do it. That's exactly what I need to do."

Certainly not a bad start for a player who, growing up, envisioned lighting up the scoreboard instead of defending it. The 6-foot-1, 193-pounder totaled over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior at Raleigh (NC) Broughton High School, and he admits that it took some time to adjust to exclusively playing defense.

"Growing up, I had an offensive mindset," said Burris. "I played defense in high school, but even then I was thinking about offense.

"Now that I'm just playing defense I can really focus on it, and that has helped me improve. I've been able to really work on my technique and fundamentals."

At times during the game he even exchanged words with Patterson, who ripped up the Wolfpack early for two touchdowns. The junior college standout had six catches for 93 yards and a score plus a 67-yard touchdown run at halftime, but he didn't have a catch in the second half and just a five-yard run.

"We were talking, but that's just the mentality that we both have," said Burris. "We can't give up... have to play hard. Nothing against him, but you don't want to be the guy being pushed around.

"You want to be aggressive and play aggressive, even if you're young."

Now Burris and the Pack turn their attention to Connecticut, a Big East foe who easily defeated UMass to start the season.

"I know they've got some good receivers," he said. "We just have to step it up and not make any mistakes.

"For me, it's been great knowing I can lean on our older guys like Dave, Earl, Bishop, J. Byrd, Dontae... they've been in a lot of games and know exactly what is going on. We'll be ready."


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