Warren native Treylon Burks is one of the most unique players to ever play for Arkansas.
Sure, he has a rare combination of size and strength for a receiver at 6’3″ and 230 pounds. But it’s the sophomore’s hands that really set him apart. Consider he wears 5XL gloves which Arkansas must special order for him, his receivers coach Justin Stepp says. This unusually large hand size, paired with elite athleticism, gives Burks a similar advantage on the football field as Julius Erving and Michael Jordan had on the basketball court.
Few basketball players were able to cradle the basketball and manipulate it in mid-air like Erving and Jordan. Throughout his career with the Warren High Lumberjacks and as a freshman with the Hogs, Burks’ own rare power was evident in the way he eschewed catching punt balls in the traditional way of allowing the ball to fall into a cradle formed by his arms and chest. “Burks high-points it as if he were catching a jump ball thrown by a quarterback – something even NFL scouts have told Stepp they’ve never seen before,” Hawgbeat’s Andrew Hutchinson wrote.
“When he started returning punts in fall camp, I was back there trying to coach my tail off and trying to get him fixed. Coach Morris finally looked at me one day and said, ‘Hey Stepp, just leave him alone.’”-Hogs WR coach Justin Stepp on Treylon Burks
It looks like Chad Morris’ 2019 mantra of “just leave it alone” has given way to new coaches in 2020 who actually know what to do and how to do it.
One such example is the the Hogs’ new special-teams coach, Scott Fountain, who had perviously worked with Sam Pittman in Georgia.
“When I first got here, coach Stepp had mentioned, ‘He catches the ball above his head,'” Fountain said in a recent press conference. “So I brought him in — this was before we ever had spring ball — I said, ‘Treylon, if an NFL team has two guys of equal value, both great returners — and you’re a great returner — who are they gonna take? A guy that catches above his head or a guy that’s gonna catch it properly with a body tuck?’ “
Burks immediately saw Fountain’s point and began working to adapt.
“It’s a battle every day,” Burks said in late August. “Sometimes I get in that old habit and catch the ball with just my hands, but we’ve been working, the team has been working with me to get better at catching the ball like I’m supposed to. I’m going to do it the right way this time.”
He averaged 10.8 yards on 12 punt returns in 2019 to rank fifth in the SEC. With more kickoff returns in 2019, Burks would have qualified for No. 3 in the SEC. As it was, he averaged 22.6 yards on 10 kickoff returns, including a long return of 42 yards.
Here are some of his most electric plays:
It would have been cool to see Burks retain his unique punt-catching technique, but in the end Fountain helped him by making him realize it was a more dangerous tactic — even if Burks badassed his way to making every catch anyway.
Besides refining that aspect of his game, Burks has been working on his technique to improve from last year. “If I can just get him to quit bullying,” Stepp said in 2019. “He tries to bully and run everybody over which is something different than you usually have in the room.”
Clint Stoerner Explains Burks’ Elite Ability
Last year, former Hogs quarterback Clint Stoerner watched Burks Burks rack up four catches for 58 yards, plus an awe-inspiring 32-yard punt return, against Texas A&M. It was enough to convince Stoerner that Burks was already one of the best receivers in college football as a freshman.
“For me Burks if the catalyst for this offense. He’s the guy that when he’s out there that there’s a real opportunity to move the football against anybody on the field,” said Stoerner, an SEC football analyst, on the Buzz 103.7 FM.
Watch Burks’ biggest plays at the 9:25 and 10:00 marks below:
Stoerner then laid out the details of why Burks has an athletic advantage against any opponent he faces:
“He’s not a one trick pony that can just take the top off the coverage. He’s not just a big body that can catch through traffic. He’s a great hand catcher, he’s got great body control, he’s got great size, his hand eye coordination is absolutely unbelievable.”
“He’s fluid in his routes, both quick and deep routes, he caught one screen that I don’t think went for a gain at all but he made two guys miss that are just showed unbelievable twitch, but the combination of size and speed with that guy… I’m comfortable saying that he’s one of the best receivers in college football right now. The future for that dude right there at Arkansas is going to be super special.”
Treylon Burks and Reggie Bush
Clint Stoerner also said that Burks’ eye-hand coordination, agility and mental processing power make him special.
“What’s interesting about when he’s returning punts is a lot of times, you see guys that are really, really quick and it’s hard to catch them in a phone booth. Yet, every guy coming down the field is in their vision and they struggle when there’s three or four guys coming at them.”
“The really good ones, you can tell they’ve already made the guy miss. The first guy that’s closest to him, they think that that guy missed already. They’re looking beyond them. [Burks] has that ability and the return game and in the receiver game after he catches the ball. It’s something I can’t relate to and it’s extremely unique… That’s really why I’m comfortable saying this dude’s one of the best in the country right now because it’s so rare.”
“I’m not comparing him to Reggie Bush, but it’s like when you were watching Reggie Bush back in the day. He wasn’t even worried about that dude who was in his face, fixing to hit him. He’s already made that guy miss. You see some of those traits in Treylon Burks, man.”
See the latest about Burks here: