When we think of Alabama’s excellent staff of the past decade, obvious names jump out at you and get the media attention: The cult heroes like Scott Cochran; the ruthless CEO in Nick Saban; the offensive coordinators -- who have shared the limelight and opprobrium; the coaches-in-waiting who built ‘Bama championships like Kirby Smart and Jim McElwain; the coordinators who are the best in the game like Jeremy Pruitt; the recruiting wizards like Mario Cristobal.
However, no man is underappreciated quite like Tide running back coach Burton Burns. Equal parts hard-ass, bad ass, and father figure, few position coaches if any have had an impact quite like Coach Burns. Perhaps only Nick Saban and Scott Cochran can lay claim to being as responsible for Alabama’s success as Coach Burns can.
Having been a fullback with Dr. Tom’s Nebraska powerhouses of the early ‘70s, Coach Burns has always required toughness and technical precision from his backs. Burns’ body of work in his 18 years at Clemson and Alabama, a roll call of players he has recruited and developed, is a who’s-who of tough, versatile, athletic all-conference, all-American and NFL performers who have bought in to those demands and delivered -- C.J. Spiller, Chris Clemons, Reggie Merriweather, James Davis, Bo Scarbrough, Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, TJ Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, Damien Harris, Najee Harris, Brian Robinson, Joshua Jacobs, Jalen Hurd, Eddie Lacy, B.J. Emmons, Dee Hart, and so on.
He plainly loves those guys and it shows...
That is why it was so very special to hear his name called out while Mark Ingram was tearfully accepting Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy.
And then again, just a few years later, when one of college football’s best-ever had one of its best seasons ever:
While the garage is full of talent this season, and as individual and team awards pile up for his players, we cannot forget the immediate impact he had on the culture and play of a Tide program that began almost-from-scratch. It was those early years that showed what Burns could bring to the table.
Terry Grant did everything that was possibly asked of him in 2007, but was a player from a different time and offense. It would be the next season, in 2008, when Coach Burns’ presence was truly felt, taking an unheralded three-star career backup by the name of Glen Coffee and molding him into a first-team All-SEC performer. Coffee averaged 5.9 yards per carry, racked up 1383 yards and 10 TDs, and had the most yards of any ‘Bama back since Shaun Alexander. That career backup was coached up well-enough to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft, being taken in 3rd Round by the San Francisco 49ers.
This season, when Alabama is again nearing 4000 yards on the ground as it did last year, Daboll will get the praise; offensive linemen will be singled out; the backs themselves will make post-season awards lists. But, over on the sideline is where that success begins.
Worth every penny and then some. Thanks, Coach Burns.
38 days ‘til Alabama football.