Saturday, October 10, 2015

Burns growing as a corner, returner

When Morgan Burns arrived at Kansas State in 2012, one thing was apparent to coaches and teammates.

He was fast.

But speed isn’t everything if there isn’t some measure of skill to go with it. And after his first-career start at cornerback last Saturday, Burns knows he, and the defense, are still a work in progress.

“We had a few issues where we let the quarterback scramble and they had a few big plays,” he said. “Me personally, I had a deep ball thrown on me and missed a few tackles.

“Part of it is just first game jitters, just getting them out. I have a lot to improve on, but I’m always wanting to get better.”

In his debut for the defense, Burns had three tackles and a team-high three pass breakups. He also recorded one of the Wildcats’ nine tackles for loss.

One mistake sticking with Burns is a deep pass he allowed a receiver to get open for against Stephen F. Austin, after getting fooled by a pump-fake motion by the Lumberjacks’ quarterback.

The K-State junior said it was a moment where he showed a lack of discipline.

Burns said he will look to improve on his performance and his first-game mistakes when the Wildcats play at Iowa State this Saturday.

The Cyclones are reeling from the loss of top-returning wide receiver Quenton Bundrage, who tore his ACL early in the team’s loss to North Dakota State last weekend.

“Obviously we’re going to prepare for who ever they have out there,” Burns said. “They have some other great receivers, and just really looking at their personnel and really preparing for whatever they bring at us, I think we’ll be ready to go.”

Without Bundrage, the Cyclones will turn to experienced wide receivers Dondre Daley and Jarvis West to fill some of the void, along with true freshman Allen Lazard. Going against the 6-foot-5 Lazard could offer a challenge for the 5-11 junior.

Burns said he’s never faced a guy with that kind of height difference on him.

“That’ll be interesting preparing for him,” Burns said. “I know he’s a freshman, so I’m not sure about his play, but I know they’ve got a great slot receiver, so I know we have to prepare. We just really need to prepare for faster guys compared to what we saw, more experienced guys compared to what we saw.”

Last Saturday was also his most productive day on special teams in his career, finishing with 105 return yards on three tries, including a 47-yard return.

Burns said he hopes he can provide relief for Tyler Lockett, who typically handles the return duties for the Wildcats. And he hopes he can continue to learn by watching the way Lockett finds, and hits holes.

Although he had a strong performance in Week 1, Burns said he could have been even better.

“(It’s) just continuing to find the hole and hitting it as fast as I can,” he said. “I know one of the returns I might not have read the blocks the best. I think I could have had a longer run on one of the returns if I had read the hole a little bit better and hit it fast.”

Despite being a junior, Burns said he feels like one of the young guys on the team in terms of experience. Burns hit the field as a true freshman in 2012, and spent the past two seasons mostly playing special teams.

This year’s schedule offers a unique challenge for a Wildcats’ roster that features a mix of experienced and young talent. While past seasons would typically see K-State playing a group of less-established teams prior to conference play, this season pits the Wildcats in a Big 12 Conference game in Week 2, and a nationally televised game against national runner-up Auburn in the middle of Week 3.

Burns said it will be a learning experience for everyone.

“For all the young guys, including myself, I have to grow up quick and learn from my mistakes and really mature quickly,” he said. “I think it’s going to be huge. (We play) Iowa State and Auburn, and the early games that we have are really tough. I think it will (get us ready).”

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