Aug. 7, 2015
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Blocking comes naturally to Freddie Burden.
Maybe that’s why the redshirt-junior center is so good at keeping all the potential distractions surrounding the 2015 Yellow Jackets out. Be it the team’s high ranking nationally (No. 17), within the ACC (the pick to win the Coastal), or his individual accolades (selected for the Rimington Trophy Watch List for the nation’s top center), complacency from those awards have as much chance of touching him as an opposing lineman does of getting to quarterback Justin Thomas.
But there is no denying that being named for the Rimington Watch List is impressive and winning the award would be quite an accomplishment, considering that the Jackets have never won the award despite having an incredible run of centers over the years (Hugh Reilly, a finalist in 2003, came closest to winning the award).
The odds of Burden winning the award may be long, but overcoming long odds has become a trademark for the 6-3, 302-pounder in his years on the Flats. After redshirting as a freshman, he sat out his redshirt freshman season after suffering a severe knee injury.
In 2014, after tireless hours rehabbing, he earned the starting center position. He played all 14 games and anchored the middle of an offensive line that steamrolled the opposition — setting school-records for rushing yards (4,789) and rushing yards per game (342.1), both tops in the nation.
The Jackets were as good keeping opposing pass-rushers out, allowing only 11 sacks in 14 games, third among FBS schools (Oklahoma allowed nine in 13 games, New Mexico State gave up 10 in 12 games), for a 0.79 sacks-per-game average that led the ACC and ranked second in the nation (only OU’s .69 was lower).
Burden was rewarded, earning Honorable Mention All-ACC and heading into 2015, he was named preseason All-ACC second team by Athlon (with LT Bryan Chamberlain, LG Trey Braun was named to the third team) as well as recognition by the the Rimington Trophy Committee.
The Statesboro, Ga., native talked to The Good Word about about the importance of his individual and the team’s preseason recognition, of his mindset heading into 2015, and practicing every day against the Yellow Jackets’ defense.
FIRST DOWN: What did you work on over the summer and where do you think you’ve improved the most heading into 2015?
Freddie Burden: I had a relaxed summer. I mainly focused on working out and getting better for the season. This season I feel more comfortable with myself, my body, I know the offense more. Going into this year I feel a lot more comfortable. That’s the main thing going into this year.
SECOND DOWN: What’s the biggest difference for you mentally heading into this season coming off playing a full season vs. last year when you were coming off injury?
BURDEN: That is a big one. I feel more comfortable going into this year. I never try to think about injuries. You just have to go through it. Injuries do happen but you just keep going no matter what.
THIRD DOWN: What are your thoughts on the team’s high preseason expectations and your being named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List?
BURDEN: I don’t really look into preseason rankings at all. They don’t mean much to me because on any given day you can get beaten by any team. So rankings and polls don’t mean much to me. I think we still have the fight and grit that we had going into last year. I still feel like we’re the underdog against a lot of teams. That’s going to be good for us going into the season. [Making the Rimington Trophy Watch List] was good, but it’s kind of like the polls. It’s preseason. It doesn’t mean anything until you actually play a game. I can’t get a big head or anything. I have to keep playing and prove it to myself. Preseason is going into the season. I haven’t done anything this season. I just have to keep on working.
FOURTH DOWN: How does practicing against the Jackets’ defensive line help the O-Line?
BURDEN: Every day you’re going against some of the best guys in the league with [DT] Jabari [Hunt-Days] and [NT] Adam [Gotsis] and [DT] Pat [Gamble] and [DE] KeShun [Freeman]. That makes everybody better. If we can get better against each other that’s going to help us going into the season.