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Stepping forward: Burton makes transition from junior college to UM

 

After losing both starting offensive tackles from the 2011 season, Bradley Sowell to graduation and Bobby Massie to the NFL, Ole Miss entered the off-season searching for an offensive lineman that could come in immediately and contribute.

Enter Pierce Burton. 

The 6’7,” 290-pound offensive tackle from City College of San Francisco signed with Ole Miss over Florida and was one of Hugh Freeze’s first big statement wins on the recruiting trail.

Since the opening of spring practice, Burton has been working with the first team offensive line, specifically at right tackle opposite sophomore Aaron Morris at left tackle. While some thought Burton would play left tackle, Burton said he’s comfortable at either spot.

“At San Jose State, my first D-1, I played both sides,” he said. “At my JUCO, I played what was called speed tackle, which is on the open side of the ball. So we would actually flip-flop almost every play. I feel pretty comfortable at both.”

While working at right tackle has come naturally to Burton, the quick tempo and fast pace of practices under Freeze has taken some getting used to.

“One thing that surprised me was I’m used to the drills for offensive line being the hardest part of practice,” Burton said. “Here, I think our team periods — pace periods — are the hardest because we’re running plays at such a fast tempo.

“There was one time where I didn’t even hear the play, so I was lost, but other than that I’ve just got to get used to the fast pace of calling plays at the line.”

Even though Burton is new to Ole Miss, his status as a junior and someone who will have to play on the offensive line this year means he is also being counted on to be a leader by the coaching staff. 

While it wasn’t something he was expecting so quickly, he’s not backing down from the task.

“It’s been a lot of pressure, but I think I’m ready for the challenge and I like the challenge of that,” Burton said. “I like to be a lead-by-example guy, not really do much talking off the field. I will say stuff on the field if it needs to be said, but other than I just step in and do my job.”

One person who made the transition easier both on the field and in the locker room is offensive line coach Matt Luke. Luke exudes an enthusiasm that the offensive line appreciates, according to Burton.

“I’ve been impressed by his technique and his enthusiasm,” Burton said. “He’s always out there running with us down the field and really coaching us hard. It makes you want to play hard too.”