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September 20, 2010

Burton is UF's jack of all trades

Florida quarterback John Brantley threw nine incompletions during the Gators' 31-17 win last Saturday at Tennessee, but one stood out and it wasn't because of anything Brantley did or didn't do.

The play went ka-put when two of his receivers -- the two nearest to the ball -- almost ran into each other.

Frankie Hammond Jr. was one of them. The other was Trey Burton.

"That was my fault," Burton said. "I went too deep."

That Burton made a mistake is understandable.

You see, the true freshman isn't playing just one position for the Gators. He's playing four -- five if you count his role on special teams. According to Florida coach Urban Meyer, all of this makes Burton his most versatile recruit ever.

In fact, Meyer called Burton's many talents "rare."

"Matter of fact," the coach added. "Does not exist. Somehow we just hit a home run on that one."

At Florida's Venice High, Burton was among the state's top quarterback prospects in the Class of 2010. Burton, who committed to the Gators, his childhood favorite, as a junior, was rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com and listed as the No. 18 dual-threat quarterback nationally.

Burton early enrolled at Florida to get a jump on learning the Gator offensive system. After a slow start in spring practice (he had some troubles with his throwing mechanics) he came on strong and was among the team's top performers in the Orange and Blue Debut. That afternoon before an announced crowd of 51,500 at Florida Field, Burton completed 12 of 18 passes for 120 yards and one touchdown, while leading all players with 123 yards on 10 carries for two touchdowns.

Despite that success at quarterback, Florida coaches began tinkering with Burton once preseason practice began in August. Gradually, he became more than Florida's No. 2 quarterback and a threat in the wildcat formation. He started taking snaps at fullback. At tight end. At receiver. And he also saw action on kickoff coverage.

In Florida's opener against Miami of Ohio, Burton carried twice out of the wildcat, scoring on a 2-yard run, and caught a pass as a tight end.

In Week-2, after starting at H-back, Burton caught two short passes and had two rushing attempts as a quarterback against South Florida.

Last Saturday at Tennessee, Burton started at slot receiver. From the wildcat, he kept the ball for a crucial 2-yard score in the fourth quarter. He also had a carry while lining up at fullback and made two tackles on special teams.

"It was awesome," Burton said of his first road trip as a Gator. "Great stadium, great atmosphere. It was a lot of fun. I didn't really know what to expect."

Burton, who is 6-foot-2, 222 pounds, also didn't know what to expect when Meyer first talked to him about trying other positons.

"Coach Meyer asked me if I wanted to play wide receiver or tight end, and I was all for it," Burton said.

Thus far, only one position request from coaches has caught Burton off guard. Fullback.

"I never thought I'd have to go block someone," Burton said.

At practice, Burton constantly rotates from one spot to the next. Because his most important role may be that of backup quarterback, he throws whenever he can.

"He's a huge asset," Florida running backs coach Stan Drayton said. "We're going to keep piling on his plate until he says enough's enough. He hasn't shown us enough's enough yet, so we're going to keep giving it to him."

Burton not only has the admiration of his coaches, but the respect of his teammates.

Said senior center Mike Pouncey: "He does everything the right way."

Eventually, Burton will probably call only one position home. But for now, he apparently will continue to be Florida's jack of all trades.

"I'll do whatever coach wants me to do," Burton said.


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