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Gators notebook: Burney says his play has been 'unacceptable'

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
South Carolina wide receiver Rico Powers Jr. is stopped by Florida linebacker Amari Burney after a reception during the second half Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Amari Burney is playing his third different position in three years at Florida, so if he looks a little confused or out of position at times at inside linebacker, that’s probably to be expected.

 But he doesn’t see it that way.

 "I like (inside linebacker), but I've got to step it up,” Burney said. “These past two weeks have been unacceptable for me, personally. Just talking with the coaches, my parents, watching film, it's been unacceptable on my part just being a starter and not doing my job.

 “Just the plays I'm leaving on the field, not playing the plays that I want to make. Doing the wrong things on the field, not being physical, not getting off blocks, things like that."

 Burney has missed some tackles, missed some assignments in the first two games, but he’s not using the fact that he’s been moved to a new position yet again as an excuse.

 "It's different,” he said. “No excuses, though. This is mainly my first year actually being out there on the field for first and second down, I usually come in on third down. But nothing new, just got to get more physical, get more aggressive. Learn from Ventrell (Miller), learn from James (Houston), people that have been playing the position for all their life, and get better every week."

 Burney started his UF career at safety, but was quickly moved to the star/nickel position during his freshman season. Last season he moved from star to linebacker and played at both positions. Now, he’s a full-time linebacker still trying to find his way on the field.

 “As a freshman, I came in as a safety. After the first day, they kind of see me as a big body, so they moved me to star to really make plays with the run game and cover a little bit,” he said. “And then my sophomore year I played star and linebacker, but then this year, they felt like we needed somebody that can cover very well, because we're going to run a little bit of different schemes. So, we kind of moved me to inside linebacker."

 Burney obviously is a versatile athlete, and likely will also see some playing time at the star position. But right now he’s going through the process of adjusting to his newest spot on the field.

 He’s been putting in the work, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.

“Well, he’s a little bit older, in the sense of being a little bit more of a technician as an inside backer,” Grantham said. “Understands a little bit quicker reads, little bit better on change of direction things where it looks like it’s going right and then all the sudden it’s going left based upon guards and things like that. He’s been a little bit quicker in reaction to those things. 

 “He’s done a really good job of really honing in on his leverage, meaning, ‘Where’s my help, and where do I need to funnel guys when I’m covering guys?’ And I would say he’s really tried to craft himself into being an expert in those kinds of things as a linebacker.”

COVID update: one positive

 UF  on Tuesday reported one new positive COVID test on the football team for the month of October. The previous week, there were zero positives.

 Since May 26, the team has had 32 positive tests.

Doering comparison?

 After watching redshirt freshman wide receiver Trent Whittemore produce in both of the first two games, including catching a touchdown pass against South Carolina, former UF wide receiver great Chris Doering said there is no comparison between him and Whittemore, other than they’re both from Gainesville.

 Doering said on the SEC Network that Whittemore is a more athletic receiver than he was at UF.

 “I’m not sure about that one,”  Whittemore said. “He’s got a lot of touchdowns here at Florida, so I have a lot of catching up to do. I do know him. He’s a great guy. I know his son as well, he’s tight with my little brother, so there’s a connection there.

 “There’s a lot of catching up to do before there’s a comparison.”

 Doering said he weighed only 170 pounds his freshman year. Whittemore was almost 200 pounds when he enrolled in 2019. He’s now listed at 208 on the roster.

 “I wasn’t around then, so I couldn’t tell you,” Whittemore said. “I do know that when he was a junior and a senior, he was balling out.”