Florida State’s lone bright spot might be UF’s toughest test Saturday.
While the 5-6 Seminoles are a mess in several departments, the Gators must prepare to stop — or, at the very least, slow down — junior defensive end Brian Burns. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Fort Lauderdale native is once again dominating despite a down season collectively under Willie Taggart and the new coaching staff.
Burns, who finished his freshman season with 9.5 sacks, is already top-10 all-time among FSU’s list of sack leaders, and he’s expected to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft. In a money year, Burns has upped his game. He’s recorded 10.5 sacks through FSU’s first 11 games, and he’s been responsible for 15.5 of FSU’s 63 tackles for a loss this season. Burns is a presence who commands attention at all times, and he’s one of the few threats the Gators must anticipate.
“I think he’s a great player. A long guy, that’s what makes him so good at times is he’s so long. He can make plays on the ball (by) just jumping up and reaching his arms out, stuff like that,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “Our tackles just got to prepare for him harder than they have all season. He’s one of the best at what he does, and you just got to prepare extra hard for a guy like that.”
And Burns has also shown a penchant for knocking the ball free, as he’s forced seven fumbles in his FSU career. That’s bad news for a Florida offense that has lost eight fumbles this season.
Saturday could be Burns’ final chance to display his skill set in garnet and gold, and the Gators have to therefore prepare for an NFL-caliber edge rusher if they hope to defeat the ’Noles for the first time since the 2012 season.
“He might be the best pass-rusher we’ve seen all year. He’s got length, he’s got speed, he’s got size, can come off the edge, causes all kinds of problems for you. I don’t know that we’ve faced a pass-rusher like that this year,” UF coach Dan Mullen said of Burns. “You’ve got to do some different things within your protection, you need to know where he is. You can’t just say, ‘OK, we’re just going to call our plays and we’ll leave him one-on-one all day long.’ He’s a guy you’ve got to know where he is on the field. He can disrupt the pass game that much.”