TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — 2017 was supposed to represent a coming-out party of sorts for Florida State football sophomore defensive end Brian Burns.
As a freshman All-American last season, Burns had 9.5 sacks as a backup spelling the likes of Josh Sweat and DeMarcus Walker.
Yet, entering the game vs. No. 4 Clemson this past weekend, Burns had yet to register a full sack through eight games this season.
He changed that against the Tigers, turning in a performance reminiscent of his freshman campaign as he tallied 7 tackles — including 4.5 tackles for loss with 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Brian Burns finished with 7 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
— Corey Clark/TDO.com (@Corey_Clark) November 12, 2017
During media availability Monday, coach Jimbo Fisher spoke on Burns’ breakout performance. Despite his lack of production entering the game, Fisher said his effort has been there all season long.
“Sometimes, you just process and the game comes together for you. You see the opportunity and you make a play,” Fisher said. “He’s always worked very hard, practiced very hard. I feel he is going to have a tremendous future in this game because he is a very good football player. He stepped up and played to another level there and hopefully he can keep that same progression in the last three weeks of the season.”
Coming out of high school, despite being a lanky 6-foot-4.5, 209 pounds, Burns was a 4-star recruit with 26 offers that registered 28 sacks over his final two seasons at American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
He delivered on the hype he carried to campus last season, but the 2017 season has been a struggle, as he adjusted to being a full-time starter and had to help replace a player such as Walker.
Still, his play against Clemson served as a reminder as to why he can be a special player and a disruptive force.
FSU forces a fumble as Brian Burns knocks it out Tavien Feaster's hands. Noles recover at their own 2 yard line.
— Sanjay Kirpalani (@SanjayKirpalani) November 11, 2017
On the first series of the game, Burns used his speed to get around Tigers tackle Sean Pollard to sack quarterback Kelly Bryant on third down to force a punt.
With Florida State facing a 7-0 deficit and Clemson just a yard away from going up 14-0 in the second quarter, the now 6-foot-5, 227-pound Burns flashed off the edge with a burst to disrupt a zone read handoff between Bryant and running back Tavien Feaster. Feaster fumbled and the Seminoles recovered.
On a similar play later in the half, Burns forced Bryant to fumble but almost inexplicably, three Seminoles failed to pounce on the loose ball and the Tigers were able to recover and kick a field goal.
Overall, he was consistently in the Tigers backfield, causing havoc the entire game. It was clear throughout that Burns had a different energy, and his play reflected that of a player that can be a dominant force if he continues to play with that level of intensity and passion.
JF says Brian Burns “stepped up to another level” against Clemson.
— Tim Linafelt / FSU (@Tim_Linafelt) November 13, 2017
Considering the Seminoles’ final three games come against teams with a combined record of 9-19, Burns should have the opportunity to close out what’s been a disappointing season on a high note.
Fisher and the much-maligned Seminoles defense will be counting on Burns as a player who can help them finish strong and potentially extend the school’s bowl eligibility streak. With one monster game against an elite opponent under his belt, Fisher believes it will help Burns deliver those type of performances with more frequency.
“Because it creates confidence,” Fisher explained. “It creates, ‘I can do it.’ People say it’s rhythm or getting into zones or whatever, but sometimes, the game just begins to focus on what you are doing and you hit that stride. Hopefully it will because we need him to play well these next three weeks. He’s played hard all year.”