Courier Journal’s Dominique Yates and Cameron Teague Robinson recap Louisville football’s first day of fall camp.
Dominique Yates, Louisville Courier Journal
Change isn’t a foreign concept to Rodjay Burns.
During his time at Trinity High School, the standout wide receiver was approached by head coach Bob Beatty about playing both sides of the football.
Beatty thought because of Burns’ length and athleticism that defensive back would be a good spot for him to punch his ticket to the next level.
“You just don’t find long corners like that in high school,” Beatty said.
Burns did what was asked and has made a college career out of the switch. After first committing to Louisville, Burns flipped to Ohio State late in his 2017 recruiting process.
Now after transferring back home after one year with the Buckeyes, he is switching positions again.
The former cornerback has been moved to outside linebacker and what defensive coordinator Bryan Brown calls the “Card” position, which requires a player that can play coverage while also helping in the run game and pass rush.
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Safety Russ Yeast believes Burns is perfect for the spot.
“He’s going to bring a lot of speed and run sideline to sideline,” Yeast said. “He’s going to excel there.”
Adjusting to the “Card” position took time, Burns said, but it was the same for others. The position is new for everybody.
When he was approached about the change, Burns said the coaching staff told him he’d get a chance to make more tackles.
“Being a corner making a lot of tackles, that’s odd, but they said I would be in more run fits. In coverage too, but more in the run fits,” Burns said.
Brown’s 3-4 scheme is designed to confuse opposing offensive linemen so they don’t know where extra rushers are coming from.
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“That’s the beauty of a 3-4. The offensive line has no idea what guy you are going to bring, whether it’s two outside or two inside or a safety or corner,” Brown said. “But that guy (at the “Card” position) has to be really special.”
To adjust to what was being asked of him, Burns added about 10 pounds. That’s weight he needs when attempting to set the edge against opposing offensive tackles.
He’s getting a good look at what that’s like in fall camp, going against Louisville’s best tackle, Mekhi Becton.
“(Becton) challenges me,” Burns said. “Going against linemen, and setting edges on linemen, you have to be able to get physical with them and have a good base, so you don’t get tossed around.”
His 38 tackles last season led all Louisville cornerbacks and with Burns’ experience in coverage, Brown said the decision to move him was an easy one.
But Burns isn’t the only one fighting for time at that position.
Juniors Quen Head and PJ Blue are also in the rotation there, co-defensive coordinator Cort Dennison said. Head is currently listed as Burns’ backup.
Yet, for the time being, the starting position belongs to Burns. The junior made a name for himself as a punt returner last year, averaging 15.2 yards per return, the second-best mark in school history. He also had a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown.
That doesn’t surprise Beatty, since Burns was an explosive playmaker in high school. It also doesn’t surprise him that Burns is being moved to linebacker.
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“He was always physical,” Beatty said.
Burns has been moving around since high school, whether it has been positions or universities. Now, as Burns settles in his new position, Beatty likes his chances of having a strong season.
“I think if he finds a spot to where he is going to land, he will contribute,” Beatty said. “That’s what I tell kids all the time, find a place where you fit and then go excel.”
Cameron Teague Robinson CTeagueRob@gannett.com; Twitter: @cj_teague; Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.