Before the start of his senior year, receiver Kris Burd attended a 7-on-7 and individual camp at the University of Virginia. With an offer already in hand, Burd still felt like he had something to prove because to him it seemed like the Cavaliers weren’t recruiting him as heavily as earlier in the process. The Richmond native shined at the camp, caught the attention of the coaches, and UVa’s interests peaked again, leading to his eventual commitment to the program.
Now a redshirt freshman at Virginia, Burd once again feels like he has something to prove. That’s what August back surgery and a year away from game action will do.
“I wouldn’t say light at the end of the tunnel because with surgery I was just watching and kind of getting hungrier and hungrier by the second,” Burd said. “It’s really like I have an extra chip on my shoulder just to prove to people I can play because I really haven’t shown anyone what I can do.”
Clearly, the Cavaliers are hoping he can bring some of his high school skills to the table. As a senior at Matoaca, he earned first-team all-state, all-region, and all-district honors after he hauled in 45 receptions for 958 yards and 10 touchdowns. His success earned three-star ratings and a consistent spot among the state’s top 25 prospects that season, including No. 21 on TheSabre.com’s list. Burd still credits high school coach Pat Manuel for helping him develop as a player.
“I feel like high school helped a lot as far as preparing myself for college. … My senior year of high school, we just opened it up and he taught me little small things as far as getting open and finding green grass,” Burd said. “I owe a lot of my knowledge of the game of football to Coach Manuel.”
Burd combines that knowledge with good physical skills. He is listed at 5-11, 189 entering the spring practice period. He was timed at 4.55 in the 40-yard run in high school, which should help bring some speed to the UVa receiver position. Virginia coach Al Groh said the staff has had limited time to evaluate his skills against college competition due to the back surgery in August, but he likes some of the early returns.
“He sees the ball quickly. That’s something that some receivers do and it’s an understated, but significant, thing. Some guys just pick the ball up faster than other guys do. I think it’s probably the same thing with baseball hitters. … He seems to pick the ball up very quickly and therefore his hands are always in good position to catch the ball,” Groh said. “He’s showing signs that hopefully will be accurate that he has a very good feel or savvy for how to get open within the pattern.”
There is plenty of competition at the receiver position so Burd will need those skills as he tries to carve out a role on the team. Maurice Covington , Cary Koch, Staton Jobe , and Dontrelle Inman all saw time last season; there’s also Kevin Ogletree ‘s return from injury to factor into the equation as well. That doesn’t count fellow redshirt receiver Jared Green .
The coaching staff is rotating the cast of characters in the spring, giving players opportunities at the X, Y, and Z positions in addition to repetitions with the each line of the offense (first team, second team, etc.) Burd believes “it’s going to be the little things that separate the good from the great” with so many talented players in the receiving corps.
“I think that’s probably a good way to keep everybody pushing and pushing. Nobody can really relax because you don’t know who’s first and who’s second [team]. You just have to keep going,” he said. “The coaches just let it be out there, you just have to work.”
Rest assured, Burd will be working. After all, he still has something to prove.
“Just being out here, there’s nothing like it. It’s like someone has taken what you love doing and just saying you can’t have it for a year before saying you can have it again. I’m just excited as I don’t know what just to play the game of football,” said Burd in reference to his missed time after surgery. “You don’t know how much you miss it until you can’t do it. It hit me hard. I just sat in the room sometimes [thinking] I can’t wait until I get back out there. Now I’m out here so I have to go hard.”
Williams Dismissed From The Team
Virginia linebacker J’Courtney Williams , a 6-3, 218-pound redshirt freshman, has been dismissed from the team. WCAV TV and other news outlets reported on Tuesday afternoon that Williams had been charged with credit card theft and credit card fraud. It had been reported earlier that Williams had received a marijuana possession charge, a misdemeanor.
Al Groh released the following statement Wednesday morning:
“J’Courtney’s time here has unfortunately been marked by issues which fall below the line of what is acceptable to us. Therefore, he will no longer be a member of our program.”
Williams is the second defensive player this offseason to run into legal issues. Mike Brown, a player that was expected to be part of the cornerback rotation if not a starter in 2008, was charged with grand larceny, possession of stolen property with intent to sell, and altering of serial numbers, all felony counts. He also was charged with a misdemeanor count of marijuana possession. Brown was suspended from the team at the time of the charges and his future remains unclear.
Groh said in Wednesday’s conference all that off-the-field issues are “unsettling” as a coach. He also indicated that the coaching staff routinely discusses with the players what the expectations are for the University of Virginia football program.
“Any miscue that we have as to what’s expected, whether it’s community issues or internal issues, we always address and reinforce immediately. We would hope the players have a pretty clear understanding of what the value system is and what we expect here,” Groh said later in a teleconference with reporters. “But everybody within the organization is disturbed by one misstep so it just causes everybody to be that much more watchful that we’ve had two unfortunate incidents. You can’t go 100% in every pass that we throw or in every kick that we make, but we try to go 100% in those other issues.”
During the 2007 season, the Cavaliers averaged just 19.8 yards per return on kickoffs. The threat of breaking a long return was sporadic, leaving the offense with a lot of field to cover after opponents scored. Along the way, Andrew Pearman , Josh Zidenberg , Cedric Peerman , Mikell Simpson , and Vic Hall all had a shot in the deep returner roles; Pearman and Zidenberg were the only two players to average more than 20 yards per return and they’re both no longer on the roster.
In other words, UVa is looking for personnel answers during spring practice. The team held another extensive special teams practice on Monday. Groh said a lot of players are getting turns in the deep return roles, though he didn’t mention names. The candidates figure to include Peerman, Simpson, and Hall due to their experience back there while redshirted players like Corey Mosley , Chase Minnifield , and others should get a look as well.
“We’re trying a number of different guys there. We have more guys available to us for those jobs either because guys have recuperated from injuries or guys that were redshirts last year and not in the mix,” Groh said. “We’re just working with it and we’ll see what comes out of it. … A lot of those answers come under real live coverage rather than how it’s being done in the spring.”
Virginia coach Al Groh was asked about the potential format of the 2008 spring football game this week and the news is not good for fans of a scrimmage-style outing. Groh said a final determination on the format would be made as the April 12 date gets closer, but that available bodies may force an altered plan.
“Until we get closer, we’ll have to wait and see, but it’s probably going to have to be an altered format,” Groh said.
“I’d put a positive grade on his spring until this point. There’s still plenty of room to go with him from where he was last year. There needs to be progress in a number of areas, which he certainly wants to do. We’re seeing progress with him but there’s still a ways to go there as there with most of those young corners.” – Al Groh on cornerback Ras-I Dowling
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