The Cornerbacks

Secondary Coach Keith Burns liked the progress the cornerbacks made in spring training, he just wishes he had more of them. Read Part IV of a series of interviews with the assistant football coaches inside.

Secondary Coach Keith Burns, who took over the extremely thin cornerbacks in spring, hit the ground running in his quest to get the Rebel CBs "right" in spring.

While he'll be the first to admit the position is thin, he was very complimentary of the job the available players did.

"I think they did a nice job. Obviously, when you are new, there's a learning curve – me learning them and them learning me," said Burns, an intense mentor to say the least. "I was pleased and proud of their effort – the way they approach practice and the way they come to meetings to learn. They challenge one another.

"We can't get where we want to go without competition. Due to our lack of numbers with Marcus Temple and Kyle Horine missing spring, it's been hard to create competition, but the guys have worked hard to bring out the best in one another."

For the purposes of a depth chart, Burns designated the corners field and boundary, but that's not exactly how it works.

"We'll put our best cover guy on the opposition's best receiver, regardless of field or boundary," Burns explained.

Charles Sawyer
Matthew Sharpe
At the Field CB, Charles Sawyer was the top gun.

"He's a talented athlete. He can run and he has a chance to be a real guy. After watching film on him prior to spring, I thought there were some areas I could help him with his game. He didn't finish well last year," Burns stated. "He started off spring really strong, and then leveled off a little, which happens, but during the last week, he might have been our best guy. He finished plays. I have been real pleased with him.

"Cliff Coleman is a young guy who has been working there as well. He's raw, but he's got ability and he's got a mean streak. He's tough, and you've got to be tough to play corner on this level. He needs to improve his overall footwork, techniques and fundamentals, but they all needed that because we are doing things differently.

"We are going to do more bump-and-run and press coverage whereas they have played with a little cushion in the past. Consequently, the techniques are different, so they all had to learn from scratch. "

On the Boundary, JUCO transfer Wesley Pendleton has a "special" look to Burns.

"Wesley is really a talented guy. He has a chance to be a special player, I think. He's mature and when he stepped in he wasn't awed by the situation facing him or the step up to the next level," Bruns said. "The SEC doesn't seem to faze him. He just lined up and said ‘bring it on.' He's very competitive and he's got a swagger. I have never been around a great one who didn't have that. He always wants to be on the best receiver. If he continues to progress, he has a chance to be one of those elite type guys you are always looking for. He's got speed to burn.

"Late in the spring, we brought Vincent Moss into the picture from outside linebacker and I think he played some wide receiver and safety too before. He has all the measurable – speed, jumping ability, size. I tried to keep things real simple with him. I have been just trying to bring his ability out by not confusing him. I have been impressed with his ability to learn. He doesn't make the same mistake twice. He might be able to help us down the road.

"Abdul Bangura, a walkon, has been a good addition. He's learning from the ground floor, but he's done some good things. We're glad to have him.

Bottom Line: It was a difficult situation – new coach, new techniques, not many bodies, guys being repped until their tongues hung out – but everyone made the most of it and by the end of spring training you could see a marked improvement in the coverage. It was tighter and crisper and the corners were making more plays on balls in the air. Good start, but Burns needs more candidates.

Next Up: The Offensive Line.

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