Can Vols Pick Off Safety?

Tennessee takeaways sealed the deal between the hedges last month, when the Vols rolled to a big victory over Georgia in Athens, but if they are fortunate enough to sign safety Morgan Burnett away from the Dawgs, it might just be the steal of the decade.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Burnett of North Clayton High School in College Park, Ga., is rated a four-star safety prospect and ranked No. 11 nationally at his position by As a junior, he recorded over 100 tackles and five interceptions when he wasn't running the team at quarterback or contributing at wide receiver for the offense. He also returns kicks and has the versatility to play several positions in college including linebacker, if he gets bigger, stronger and tougher.

"Burnett is a big athlete that has excellent size to play several positions on the college level," writes recruiting analyst Scott Kennedy. "He is a quarterback, wide receiver, safety, corner, return man for the Eagles. He could be a safety or wide receiver on the collegiate level. He has good instincts in the defensive backfield, but must get tougher to remain on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, he has great size and a long stride."

Burnett has been offered by Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Tennessee, which comprise his current list of favorites. Even if he wasn't in Bulldog territory he would have Georgia on his mind. His brother and high school assistant coach is Cap Burnett, who played for the Bulldogs, while the Eagles head coach is the father of former UGA starting signal caller, D.J. Shockley.

If Tennessee is to overcome the intrinsic advantages of home, coach and family enjoyed by the Bulldogs it will take an exceptional effort by Trooper Taylor, who is handling the majority of Burnett's recruitment.

"Coach Trooper is recruiting me for Tennessee," Burnett said. "I like him a lot. He wanted me to come to Knoxville for the LSU game this weekend but I couldn't because I've got a game on Saturday. I think I will be there for the next home game against Kentucky."

Morgan Burnett is having another standout season this fall in his high school football swan song. As of this writing, the Eagles are 5-3 against Georgia's highly respected Class-4A competition, and can earn a playoff bid with victories in their final two regular season contests. While Burnett is keeping his focus on that worthy goal, he lets others keep the statistics.

"I play quarterback and wide receiver," he said. "I don't know how many touchdowns and yards I have. I know I have five interceptions, but I don't know how many tackles I've got. I know it's a lot."

When pressed beyond the threshold of true modesty, Burnett did manage to recite some highlights from a few of his better games.

"Against Westside Warner-Robbins I had a lot of tackles, pass breakups, and I scored two touchdowns and caught two deep passes," Burnett recalled. "Against Jonesboro I had three interceptions and I ran a kickoff return back 75 yards."

Burnett is very athletic and accomplished in several sports. He's a three-year starter at guard and small forward for North Clayton's basketball squad, in addition to being a track and field star. He has turned an impressive 10.7 (seconds) clocking in the 100 meters and has recorded a 47-foot triple jump.

His size and speed, which is in the 4.5 range, body control and ball-hawking instincts could help him become a natural at strong safety in college, especially in UT's defensive scheme. Burnett insists he doesn't have a favorite at this point, and apparently no time frame for making a decision. He visited Athens for the Tennessee-Georgia game, and has high regards for the Volunteers.

"Tennessee wants me at safety," he said. "That's what I want to play. Tennessee is a serious contender."

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