Former UCLA QB Austin Burton transfers to Purdue

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Quarterback Austin Burton #12 of the UCLA Bruins carries the ball against Oregon State on Oct. 5. (Leon Bennett/Getty)
Quarterback Austin Burton #12 of the UCLA Bruins carries the ball against Oregon State on Oct. 5. (Leon Bennett/Getty)

Former UCLA quarterback Austin Burton is transferring to Purdue, giving one of the more prominent quarterbacks in the NCAA transfer portal an intriguing landing spot.

Burton told the news to Yahoo Sports in a phone interview. He’s on schedule to graduate from UCLA in July after three years and will be immediately eligible to play this fall at Purdue. He’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Burton started one game in his three seasons at UCLA, and his departure is tied to not beating out incumbent quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson for the starting position. Burton drew interest from multiple schools, including Colorado, Vanderbilt and Hawaii, but ended up choosing Purdue because of the prospect of playing in Jeff and Brian Brohm’s quarterback-friendly offense.

“I really like how they mixed in both the spread and pro-style,” Burton said. “I loved the whole offense and the way they go about it.”

Burton enters a quarterback race this summer that projects to be wide open. Elijah Sindelar’s decision to retire from football leaves the Purdue starting competition in flux. Burton will join a race between redshirt sophomore Jack Plummer, former walk-on Aidan O’Connell and incoming freshman Michael Alaimo. Plummer started six games last season and O’Connell started three, earning a scholarship.

Burton arrives with a shot to compete for the starting job, which was part of the allure of Purdue. “They obviously didn’t promise anything,” Burton said. “They guaranteed I’d have an opportunity to show my ability. If I earned it, I’d be the starter. Everything is earned there. That’s how it should be.”

Burton’s recruitment to Purdue was indicative of these uncertain times. He was unable to visit campus in person or meet any of his coaches. Burton entered the transfer portal on March 3. The travel restrictions that arose from the coronavirus soon after prevented him from getting to West Lafayette.

He relied on in-person intel from his parents, Steve and Ginni, who visited the Purdue campus in early March. They happened to be in Indianapolis for the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament. Austin Burton’s sister, Veronica, is a star player for Northwestern.

“It’s hard to commit to a place I’ve never been to,” Austin Burton said. “It’s a weird thing. But I trust my parents more than anyone in the world. They told me how enjoyable it was and how much they liked the coaching staff and the facilities.”

Burton was a three-star commitment out of high school. He initially committed to Boston College, near his home in Newton, Massachusetts, before flipping to UCLA and then-coach Jim Mora.

He’ll arrive at Purdue with an aura of mystery. He completed 68.8 percent of his passes (44 for 64) for UCLA last year in five games. He played well in his lone start, a loss to Oregon State, completing 27-of-41 passes for 236 yards and his lone career touchdown pass. He redshirted in 2017 and didn’t play in any games in 2018.

Burton worked out a handful of times with West Coast private quarterback coach Danny Hernandez, who sees a “great fit” with Burton’s skillset and Purdue’s offense. “He’s clean mechanically, has a high football IQ and is steady overall,” Hernandez said. “I think he’s going to thrive in any offense that he’s in.”

Burton said there’s already been some family conversation about him ending up on the campus of one of Northwestern’s Big Ten West rivals.

Austin Burton’s grandfather, Ron Burton, was an All-American running back at Northwestern and is in the College Football Hall of Fame. His father, Steve Burton, played quarterback for the Wildcats and has been a prominent sportscaster in Boston for WBZ-TV for more than 25 years. His mom, Ginni Burton, was an All-American swimmer for the Wildcats. Veronica Burton won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for the Wildcats basketball team this season.

Northwestern took another graduate transfer quarterback, Peyton Ramsey, in this cycle. Austin Burton chuckled knowing this won’t be the last time he’s asked about Northwestern.

“It’s definitely something that’s talked about in the family,” he said. “I mean, there’s no grudges held. I’m just excited to get to Purdue and play.”

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