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Vaught's Views: Burton's rise a surprise

August 26, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

The first time most of us heard the name Keenan Burton was about a year ago when he got the scholarship to the University of Kentucky that Boyle County's Jacob Tamme was supposed to get.

We knew Burton was a talented player from Louisville who could do a variety of things for Manual. But most of us still wondered how UK coach Guy Morriss could withdraw his scholarship offer to Tamme just because Burton decided to commit first.

Fortunately for Tamme, Morriss left and new UK coach Rich Brooks offered Tamme a scholarship within two weeks of taking the job and Tamme took it almost immediately. However, while there's no doubt Tamme is a good fit at Kentucky, it's now a lot easier to see why Morriss was so eager to get Burton.

Brooks announced Monday that he would start in place of injured Tommy Cook at receiver Sunday when the Wildcats open play by hosting Louisville.

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Burton has been as impressive as any receiver in UK's preseason drills. He's outplayed returning receivers Glenn Holt and Chris Bernard. He's been able to practice daily, something highly touted freshman speedster John Logan couldn't do because of an injury.

With Cook out at least for the first two games after having surgery to remove a bone spur on his ankle and Derek Abney practicing for the first time in two weeks Monday because of a hamstring injury, it has been Burton making the most consistent impression in practice.

"We've seen nothing but great things out of him," Brooks said Monday. "He's going to be a huge factor for us as a true freshman."

Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen mentioned Burton before any other receiver when he was asked who might compensate for the loss of Cook after Cook's surgery.

Danville coach Sam Harp got to watch film of Burton when he was preparing for Danville's game last week against Manual. He was amazed at some of the athletic things he saw Burton doing on the game film and knew then that Burton was far better than he imagined.

Burton was as impressive as any player, including Mr. Football Michael Bush, on the Kentucky all-star roster in June. His play in the win over Tennessee was superb at both receiver and cornerback.

He will back up Abney, an All-American, on both punt and kickoff returns against Louisville.

Sunday's game has to be special for him. Manual is within a stone's throw of the Louisville campus, but former Louisville coach John L. Smith paid little attention to Burton. That lack of attention from the hometown team burns deep inside Burton even if he says little about the slight.

"I don't ever want Louisville to come in here and beat me on my home field," Burton said. "I don't ever want that to happen."

Obviously Burton has a lot to learn. Most freshmen receivers are redshirted, as was Abney his first year. They either are not physically ready to play or have too much trouble learning the offense. Burton is one of those exceptions and while he may once have been an unknown to many of us, his rise no longer is a surprise.



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