An interesting thing happened when One Eyed Willy and I were drafting the Florida Gators last week to form two starting lineups to battle each other head-to-head in the imaginary stadium that exists only in our heads: neither of us seriously considered adding Trey Burton to our rosters.
The entire situation was interesting because of the figure Burton has become over his two years at Florida. He came in as an athlete we thought would be a quarterback and quickly became a utility man of sorts. During his freshman season in 2010, he ran the ball only six times and caught half as many passes in the Gators first three games. And then that magical night happened.
On September 25, 2010, Burton went from a freshman with the potential to become a weapon at a variety of positions to a legend. You surely remember it vividly: Burton carried the ball five times and ended each run in the end zone. He would also add five receptions with another touchdown. When the dust settled, Burton had finished with a fairly average 10 touches on offense for 77 total yards. A good yards per touch average sure, but nothing spectacular. But then there were the touchdowns – six in all. Burton solidified his place in Florida football history in just one night and suddenly expectations were sky-high.
The rest of Burton’s freshman season showed he could be used in a variety of ways. He wasn’t exceptional, but he was solid. There was a flash – a 51-yard run against Georgia – but most of all there was effort. Fans fell in love with the way he played and the way he interacted. Burton took heavily to Twitter, communicating with fans on a regular basis. He was a star in the making…then Urban Meyer resigned for good (well, we now know what “for good” means).
With Will Muschamp coming on as head coach and hiring Charlie Weis as his offensive coordinator, no one knew what to expect of Burton. He had enough talent to find a place on offense, but what place would that be? There were even whispers that he could be given a look on defense – anything to give him a chance to get on the field. When the 2011 season came to an end, Burton’s carries were cut in half (75 in 2010, 37 in 2011), his receptions dropped (31 in 2010, 19 in 2011), and his touchdowns trailed off (12 in 2010, 4 in 2011). He was banged up in the season opener against FAU, but overall his position was far from defined and his chances were limited.
That second season (and possibly that first) led to both of us passing on Burton. Keep in mind, that we were picking starting lineups only and that if we had gone further, one of us definitely would have added him for his versatility. Regardless, we passed on the first go-around because we weren’t sure where to put him.
At running back, Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown were the choices. At fullback, I took Hunter Joyer, while OEW leaned toward Omarius Hines and the hope he’ll be used in the power run game. At tight end, Jordan Reed and A.C. Leonard went off the board first and there’s a good chance Kent Taylor would have been the next selected if we had gone to backups. Finally, at wide receiver, we both went with more traditional pass catchers. Basically, we didn’t see Burton as a sure choice over any of those players and that’s where the question comes up. How will Trey Burton contribute to the offense? I asked a few of you and here’s what you had to say:
“good player has no position; wouldn’t mind putting him in defense to see if he’s any good there and to find him a home” – Adam
“He could be used like Spurrier used Chris Doering, as a reliable possession receiver (something we really need), who could razzle-dazzle…we need to make use of his catching ability…” – A.J.
“He can be used any way but running an option on 4th and 1 to lose 14 yards. Personally, I think he would be a great hback to spell Joyer on 3rd and more than 4 or 5, or as a slot receiver.” – Andrew
“great hands, great mind, therefore put him in positions/situations that he, team can prosper” – Judy
“WR,3-DOWN BACK,TE.” – Vincent
Burton is a good football player and a great athlete. He could contribute to a number of teams in a number of ways. The issue though is that you don’t take him over your “starters.” He’s your wildcard (some will say wildcat). Taking snaps, he adds the threat to throw, even if he has only done so 12 times in his two seasons with the Gators. As a ball carrier, he’s a hard runner that gives you maximum effort. And as a receiver, his hands may be his greatest asset.
Then there’s his attitude. Burton is the type of teammate you want and someone that could be an important leader on this team during the 2012 season and beyond. He’s someone you want to play with and has an attitude that rubs off on others. Tim Tebow Light? Well, I’ll let you decide from an effort, attitude and leadership standpoint and, on that note, I’ll let Burton prove it.
We don’t know what we’ll get from Burton and, more important, we don’t know what opportunities Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Brent Pease will give him. We can guess and we will, but we might as well flip a coin. There’s a chance he could carry the ball five times a game and there’s a chance he could total five carries over five games. There’s a chance he could be the team’s leading receiver and there’s a chance he could total less than 15 receptions over the entire season.
Burton will be used, but just how is anyone’s guess. We do know the Gators need weapons and they need to move the ball – extending drives may be one of the most critical things on a list of improvements needed for 2012. We’ve seen Burton contribute to that in the past. Hopefully he can in the future.