An NFL draft long expected to be defined by elite defensive linemen just got better. Florida State defensive end Brian Burns, a hybrid edge player who is one of the country’s elite pass rushers, told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview that he’s declaring for the draft.
Burns is a rangy, 6-foot-5 player who finished first-team All-ACC at defensive end this season with 10 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Burns, who is 235 pounds, has a reputation as an elite pass rusher, a skill that intrigues NFL teams and makes him a potential first-round draft choice.
“Florida State has been some of the best years of my life,” Burns said in a telephone interview with Yahoo Sports. “These last three years have been great playing with my teammates, but I feel like this is my opportunity, and time for me to go.”
Burns sees his versatility as an asset as he approaches the NFL draft. He considers himself a hybrid edge rusher who could flash at the next level as an outside linebacker and rush defensive end, equally comfortable dropping back in coverage and setting the edge. Burns hopes to establish himself initially as a pass rusher, a skill he showed in finishing second in the ACC in sacks this season.
“I see myself as an all-around player,” he said. “Rushing the passer is how I can make my name and my mark.”
He joins a stacked draft class of ends/hybrid rushers that includes Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Michigan’s Rashan Gary, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell, Boston College’s Zach Allen, Kentucky’s Josh Allen and Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat. Burns has the potential to rise, as he’s expected to show significant athleticism in NFL scouting combine testing. Burns said the competition at the position has been a motivator all season.
“They had great seasons and made great plays,” he said. “It’s been uplifting. It gives you that urge to go out and be better than last week.”
Burns will bring a unique perspective into the NFL draft process. His older brother, former Auburn star Stanley McClover, played in the NFL for three seasons from 2006-2008. McClover’s role in mentoring Burns transcends the field, as he has been a resource on decision-making, and instilling in him the magnitude of what’s in front of him. McClover said he hopes his younger brother learns from both the successes he had and mistakes he made in his NFL journey.
“I want him to be a complete player on and off the field,” McClover said. “And I want him to be someone that can be respected as a role model and leader. I told him to keep his integrity first. He’s a man before he’s a football player.”
The most difficult part for Burns will be leaving his friends, teammates and coaches at Florida State. His father, Brian Burns, described his son’s decision as “pulling teeth” because he’d enjoyed himself so much in Tallahassee. His mother, Angela Burns, joked that her son would have played in the Dunkin’ Donuts Bowl if the Seminoles had qualified.
“I can’t stress enough how important the guys on the team are to him,” Angela Burns told Yahoo Sports. “If he hadn’t done so well this year, he’d have had no issue coming back to Florida State. None. He’s not fame driven, he’s not money driven. He just loves football.”
Burns added that he wished he left the Seminoles after a better season, as they went 5-7 this year and missed a bowl. But he’s optimistic about the future in Tallahassee.
“I never intended on finishing my college career the way we did this season,” he said. “It’s a little frustrating. They’ll turn it around in years to come. I’m glad they have Willie Taggart there to get program back to where it used to be.”
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