Burns Sparkles At Pitt

For those who didn't have a chance to see him play scholastically at Wilmington Area High School in New Wilmington, Pa., try to go to Pitt's football FanFest next Thursday night from 6-9 at Heinz Field to see tailback Chris Burns.

It might be the last time you get to see this dazzling freshman for a while, because he likely will be redshirted. While he has earned playing time with his sparkling performances halfway through the Pittsburgh training camp, there aren't likely to be enough carries for Chris Burns.

Backs ahead of Burns are sophomore LeSean McCoy, senior LaRod Stephens-Howling, redshirt freshman Shariff Harris and redshirt sophomore Kevin Collier. The Pitt fullbacks, senior Conredge Collins and redshirt freshman Henry Hynoski, are also in the mix.

"So far, it's been a great experience, and I'm learning a lot from the older guys,'' Burns said. "They've been a great help, and Coach Walker is always there when I have a question. So, I'm doing the best that I can. Hopefully, I can help Pitt out this year. If not, then I'll just be patient.

"I really wasn't sure when I arrived, but my mind-set was that I wanted to make the most of the opportunity presented me. I know that things might now work out, but my time will come eventually here. It'll be here before you know it, so I just want to keep working hard and be ready if I'm needed.

"Obviously, as a football player, I want to play,'' Burns added. "Sometimes, the best things come to those who wait, so I just have to be patient and wait my turn. And I'll be fine with that. If I get to play this year, I'll be ecstatic. We have a great team, coaches and training staff, and if they want me to be part of it, helping them win football games, then that would be great.''

Pitt running backs coach David Walker noted that McCoy and Stephens-Howling are the clear-cut starting and backup running backs, respectively, for the Panthers. However, Burns joins Harris and Collier as co-third-teamers. While that's a nice thought for the coaching staff, it's clear through practice repetitions that Harris is ahead of Collier, and Burns is pushing him after that.

Also, Stephens-Howling and Collier have missed a couple practice days due to leg injuries, but Burns definitely has picked up the slack and continues to be impressive due to various spin moves and the like.

"Chris is doing a fine job for us, but the thing as coaches that we're impressed with is the toughness that he's shown,'' Walker said. "Whether it's been in the blocking drills or running between the tackles, we knew about the speed and quickness and what he can do with the ball in his hands from his high school tape, but he's a good learner.

"And he's a tough, competitive kid, and those things are standing out right now. His last couple practices, the scrimmage and the practice before that, I thought that Chris really showed some stuff as far as running the ball where he was supposed to be, catching the ball and blocking. So, he's doing a great job, and we're throwing a lot at him. But he's a quick learner.''

Burns has found that any additional moves after an initial shake are useless in college because there aren't going to be that many long runs. Since he's now at 5-foot-11, 190-plus pounds, Burns can run over a defender as well as go around him. He hopes to be at 205 pounds by the end of this year.

"When you play in high school, you only need to know what you're going to do,'' Burns said. "But in college, you have to know the defense, too. And you have to pick up the different blocking assignments.

"It definitely gives me confidence to know that if I make some plays I can get some more playing time. So, I just try to do the best that I can every chance I get. If I do something wrong, I want to get it right the next time so I can be a better player.''

Along with Collier, safety Irvan Brown, cornerback Buddy Jackson, offensive tackle Ryan Turnley and tight end John Pelusi are out on day-to-day. Tight end Nate Byham (right shoulder and outside linebacker Shane Murray (left shoulder) returned to practice.

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