As spring practice continues, the media gets an opportunity to talk to what usually is one position coach per practice. Tuesday’s installment of team activity featured defensive line coach Shane Burnham. Coach Ash tabbed Burnham to replace the almost universally popular Jim Panagos, one of the few coaches rumored to possibly to stay following the dismissal of Kyle Flood’s staff. As a result, Burnham was judged on a tougher curve than some of the other position coaches in 2016.
Before getting into the details, I’ll admit I was one of those judging a year ago. Having a staff that seemed a little too young and in some ways, perhaps too positive, means Burnham is a good fit. He’s not “old”, having started at South Carolina in 1996 and 1997, but definitely has an old school approach with insanely high standards, as in never satisfied. This attitude is perfectly appropriate for a defensive line coach. His extremely experienced unit didn’t have a great 2016, but was serviceable.
At the same time, Burnham is fully energetic, in a different way than coach A.J. Blazek, despite admitting his mistakes in 2016. Most notably, he said in the interview that he did not rotate all positions as much as he plans to in 2017 and beyond. He specifically said he played Hamilton and JPO too much, which wore down his two best players and trickled down to the rest of the team. I find the quote he posted on twitter by legendary basketball coach Geno Auriemma rather interesting, because it indicates his philosophy requires players to take plenty criticism and still stay upbeat evidenced via good body language.
Burnham didn’t have any quotes as funny as Jerry Kill, as the OC said he would use his wife at QB if she was the best option. Shane did have a funny moment when discussing the last stop when it comes to the progression as players grow through the program: “take big tackles that can't move and give them to (offensive line coach) AJ (Blazek), like Kamaal (Seymour).”
Over the course of the interview (posted below from RVision), much of the two deep was referenced in some capacity. Here are some highlights from Burnham on his personnel:
Darnell Davis Jr.: “Darnell is probably playing out of position really and is a tweener. Somewhere between a outside linebacker and a 3 or 4 down defensive end. He lacks the size at 6’2”, I’d like to have him longer. But he has benefited from it. He made some plays last season in the Indiana game and in the Michigan game, the fumble recovery. He is a guy that shows up everyday, kind of like that last crew, like Quanzell, JPO and Darius in that he is steady in his approach.”
Sebastian Joseph: “The development of Sebastian. I think he has a great figure in terms of physique you are looking for to play inside. What we didn’t have last year I think was we didn’t have great pad level with his hands. It sounds little but he has improved. It’s fun to watch guys like that get better.”
Kemoko Turay: “Man, he really is athletic. Seeing him full speed, not worrying about getting hurt. Mentally, he is further along with the defense like everybody else. He is just a really athletic guy. Now that he is healthy and comfortable in the scheme, he is playing faster. When he is playing fast, he is really playing fast.”
Kevin Wilkins: “My challenge with Kevin is this, I’ll tell anybody and I’ll tell Kevin. He has talent to play this game at the next level, I believe that about Kevin. Everything that Kevin has to figure out is between him and him. If Kevin can come out with a steady approach everyday and come with a great work ethic and desire to be great, then the sky is the limit.”
My take is it seems like Turay, that this guy is a physical beast, who once he fully buys in and can translate ability to production, he could play in the NFL. Wilkins is so athletic for a 300 pound monster but needs to be more committed each day and act like a pro before he could become one.
Jon Bateky: “I’m really high on Jon, I always have been. He played some really good ball at times last year. He is steady everyday. I’m really excited about the next two years with Jon Bateky. When you talk about guys making progress, I thought he made it last year. Although he didn’t play much behind Darius (Hamilton). Now that he is out there playing a lot, I anticipate him challenging for a starting role.”
Julius Turner: “I think you see some growth from guys like Julius Turner. If you had asked me six months ago, did we make a mistake or is he just a freshman? But really he has pleased me, he’s flashed and I like what he is doing.”
Elorm Lumor & Solomon Manning “We are trying to be more athletic at the position. I think that’s what the goal was with those guys (moving from linebacker). We need more speed on the edge.”
Wil Previlon: “Another guy is Wil, you look at him, he is 285 pounds and keeps getting bigger. As a coach, that’s what excites you. I think #96, even though he wasn’t playing, got better last fall. I think Wil has picked it up and that’s exciting to watch those kind of things happen.”
Brendon Bordner: “It helps him a lot (enrolling early). He is with coach Parker and getting his butt kicked in the weight room. It’s a different workout than these guys are used to. He is already tipping the scales at probably close to 270 pounds. He was 245 pounds when we saw him in high school. Physically he has developed. Mentally, learning the playbook. What he hasn’t done yet is learn to play at our speed, which is a big jump for a high school kid. He is still learning and drinking from the fire hose as far as physical play, but physically with KP and mentally knowing the playbook, it gives him a leg up.”
Burnham didn’t mention Jimmy Hogan. In my opinion, Jimmy was not being called out for poor performance, but hasn’t done enough to get past Darnell Davis who is playing out of position. Even though the team wants to be more athletic (aka converted linebackers at end like Davis) there is an opportunity for a more natural defensive end like Hogan to be the starter or get rotated in significantly. When Burnham was talking about the guys who have bought in eventually, Jimmy was not mentioned either which is probably a good thing.
There was no mention of early enrollee Micah Clark, so perhaps this puts to bed him playing D this season.
The short of it is the same as always with Burnham, don’t worry about where you have been or where you’re going, just get better every day.