CLEMSON -- Clemson running back coach Burton Burns was a recent guest on "Plyler on Sports" with Mickey Plyler to discuss the progress made during spring practice. "Plyler on Sports" can be heard from 4-6, Monday-Friday, 1070AM in upstate South Carolina.
Listen to the full Burton Burns interview Here: Real Audio - Windows Media
Plyler: What is going to happen in the next few weeks with your schedule?
Burns: Right now, this week particular, each coach is busy meeting with each player individually as well as each player will meet with Coach Bowden. Each position coach will meet with their guys and give them an evaluation. I like to get my guys to evaluate themselves and tell me how they thought their spring and their progress went. We sit down with those guys and see what their plans are for the summer and whether they will be in both sessions of summer school. We try to tell them our expectations for them during the summer. I guess the other part is getting ready and prepared for the start of the recruiting process all over again.
Plyler: Talk about Yusef Kelly and how he performed this spring.
Burns: He had his best spring ever, maybe his best 15 day practice sessions. I say this guy improved more than he has in the previous two years because there were some things that we had identified that he needed to work on and he conscientiously worked on those things everyday. A lot of it had to do with the things we did as an offense. This spring we have been running a lot of I-formations a lot more and I think it suited him and his style a lot better. Some of the things that I asked him to improve on the last two years were difficult for him to do because of lining him up in the shotgun. He is capable of doing these things, but the I-formation is more his natural position for Yusef. I think that he was able to identify these things easier - that he indeed needed to run the ball north south a little bit more and work on learning how to finish off those runs. He is kind of an upright runner sometimes so one of the things that I thought to improve his style was to get his pads down a little bit lower and finish runs. He really has done a good job. He has consistently worked on those things everyday this spring.
Plyler: Talk about the young redshirt freshman Reggie Merriweather.
Burns: Well, you know when I talked to Reggie during his evaluation, I would have liked to tell him that he was a surprise but he really wasn't. Coming out of high school, we had those expectations of Reggie. He was a little overweight as a freshman when he reported as a freshman so he got that corrected and got beat up a little bit on the scout team by those defensive guys last year. So he kind of got back in the mode that he was in during high school. He is a tremendous runner. He has great balance and very powerful. I think what surprised me a little bit was that his breakaway speed was a little bit better than I thought. So I thought from start to finish, he improved knowing the offense in general. I think that was one of the additional problems coming into last year. He learned the offense and going back to the I-formation was a more natural fit for him.
Plyler: Give us your comments on Duane Coleman and how he has progressed.
Burns: Duane had an outstanding spring as well. The thing that everyone was expecting out of Duane is the long run opportunities. He didn’t have many opportunities. It wasn’t because he couldn’t do it. A lot of times when you are practicing and looking at the same defenses and the defensive guys are looking at you. It just depends because everything has to fit right to have those long runs. What I thought he did was that I thought proved everything we thought he could be. He is as good a runner between the tackles and as he is outside. Duane showed us some toughness that we were looking for. We knew he could run outside the tackles but everything he showed us. Every running opportunity he had, he never lost a yard after contact. He was always going forward. He had a knack for getting north south without changing direction. From that standpoint, he had an outstanding spring and the long runs will come. He got a little frustrated there, but I thought the things that he did and if he continues to improve those things will come. He has to keep putting himself in the position for those long run opportunities.
Plyler: What about Kyle Browning?
Burns: Of all the guys, I think this guy has the most consistent day in and day out spring practice. The reason that I say that is because obviously he is undersized, he always matched up against someone bigger and stronger than him. One thing that little kid did was coming out of spring became our best technician when we play action passed where the backs have to pick up the protections. Technique wise, it is like night and day for him from last year. Obviously, he has gotten stronger. Kyle is a 400 pound bench presser for a little guy. That’s not too bad compared to body weight. He worked really hard getting north and south. You would be really surprised with some of the contact situations he was in, and he won those battles. I think that I was really pleased with Kyle, and the thing that probably made us a little hesitant last year about putting him in a ball game was whether he could pick up the protections and could he be physical enough. We are really glad for that kid because he really worked hard. I think he opened up a lot of people's eyes, coaches and teammates.
Plyler: Anybody ahead right now for that second tailback position ?
Burns: For production right now, you have to give Merriweather a slight edge. But it just depends on how you judge production because Coleman did a lot of good things between the tackles, some things we haven’t seen from our tailbacks around here since I have been here. But for production wise , if you are going to have to judge it like in two a days, Reggie would have a slight edge over those guys.
Plyler: Comment on the decision and the thought process to run more I-formation and specifically a guy or two whose ability suits this more than the last two years?
Burns: I think one of the reasons that we made the decision to go more I-formation was that our backfield was suited more for the I-formation. We still want to spread the field but again defenses have adjusted a little more to the one back. Four or five years ago, the one back kinda hit college football like a storm. It surprised a lot of defensive guys so now they are doing more things. So I think the philosophy has changed now to loading the box up and stopping the run. They will gamble more on the pass and try for you not to get the ball off. So I think we had to adjust for the times and the type of personnel that we have. I think it was a combination of trying to adjust to what the defense is doing and I think we also have great tailbacks that we have talked about earlier.