August 27, 2009

Burnett's a tackling machine

Julian Burnett has steadily improved from the start of fall camp and his play has caught the eye of head coach, Paul Johnson. Burnett is one of four true freshmen on defense that is likely to see the field this season along with Izaan Cross, Jemea Thomas, and Rod Sweeting. Before the team began practicing this season, Burnett was probably the least likely candidate amongst the aforementioned players to make the roster in his first year, but his solid play has earned him a spot in the rotation.

The Macon, Georgia native attributes his immediate impact to his focus and steady mindset. According to Burnett, "There is tough competition and it's a lot different from high school. Everything is a lot faster and I came in knowing close to nothing at all. In that sense it is a surprise, but I came in with the mindset that I'm going to play the first year and that's what I'm going to do."

Burnett also claims to have learned a lot watching the play of Brad Jefferson and receiving Jefferson's guidance and tutelage. Burnett says, "Brad was a big help. Any time I mess up, he is the one that really helps me. All of the other guys try to help me too, but mainly because he's the first guy at my position, he's really the one that has helped me out."

He is a hard hitter that has shown the ability to make tackles in "can't miss" situations. The signs of a great linebacker are that they possess the natural instincts that allow them to always be around the ball carrier and second, that they finish the play by making the tackle. Burnett thinks that his demonstration of these skills is what has caught Coach Johnson's attention.

"Sometimes I can mess up on assignments, but still make the tackle," he said. "Every snap, I am going to make a tackle, whether it is an isolation run or a 50-yard pass down the field, I want to be on that tackle. As long as I have that mindset and that goal, I'm going to be there to make the play."

Burnett recognizes that he still has a long ways to go before he fully grasps where he needs to be on every defensive assignment, but progress comes before perfection. When asked about areas in his game that still need improvement, he responded, "Right now it's putting concepts together with the defense. I have the gist of everything, but I've got to put the concepts together better so that I'll know exactly where I need to be."

Burnett is doing everything that he can to prepare himself for September 5 and if the moment comes where he trots out onto Grant Field in front of 50,000 strong, you can bet that he is going to make the tackle!

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