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October 16, 2013

Intangibles elevate Burton's game

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Mark Fleetwood is no stranger to elite talent.

Fleetwood, head coach at Peachtree Ridge High School, was an assistant at Troy University when Demarcus Ware won Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 2004. Ware, who Fleetwood helped recruit, was drafted 11th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.

Eleven years prior, as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee-Chattanooga, Fleetwood coached a wide receiver named Terrell Owens. The Alexander City-native was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.

READ: [Burton commits]

Fleetwood's seen NFL talent, he knows potential when he sees it, and he sees it in Myron Burton.

"I was fortunate enough to be around Terrell, I watched Demarcus up-close, and Myron's athletic ability and practice habits remind me of them," Fleetwood told AuburnSports.com. "As he develops his skills, he's going to be a kid that could be in a group by himself because of his work habits matched with his ability. He has the intangibles."

Burton has 336 yards and three touchdowns through five games this season, leading Peachtree Ridge to a 6-1 record, but it wasn't until earlier this spring that Burton became a hot commodity. Burton began to emerge during his sophomore season and was primed for an impressive junior season, but injuries held Burton back.

The season Burton hoped would vault him into the recruiting spotlight didn't unfold as he planned.

So, Burton went back to work and began making a name for himself this spring. Burton attended the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour in Atlanta and earned praise from the analysts and coaches in attendance. Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt among others came calling. Auburn didn't.

Then Burton dominated at the Tigers' summer mini-camp, showing strong hands and a competitive spirit. That performance landed Burton an offer two months later. 11 days after that, Burton was a member of Auburn's Class of 2014.

"It was about getting a chance to get out and get going," Fleetwood said.

"Myron's an explosive player and a good athlete. The ability to make big plays at any time is the thing that Myron brings to the table. To be able to operate in heavy traffic, go up and get the ball, he's got speed -- as a receiver he gives us a lot of things. He's a threat every time we throw him the ball to break a tackle and to make a big catch and take it the distance. He's an all-around good player. He works hard on the field, works hard off the field -- he's a team leader and has all the things that could make him a great player. His best football is still ahead of him."

READ: [IMPACT ANALYSIS: Burton's game physical]

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and receivers coach Dameyune Craig have plans for Burton as a slot receiver. Fleetwood believes that's an ideal fit.

"He can play inside or outside, it doesn't matter," Fleetwood said. "His ability to go up and get the ball in a crowd is something that's always stuck out. He's strong, he can run over you, but he's usually pretty smart about that."

Being the son of a former Auburn player undoubtedly added some pressure to Burton's decision. Following in the footsteps of your father and mentor is a big decision, but Burton was patient. Fleetwood conversed with Burton often as the fall approached and after the Tigers offered.

Burton's decision appears final.

"I think he feels comfortable with Auburn and he's excited about it," Fleetwood said. "He was happy when they offered him. I'm not surprised, he's had quite a few programs in here looking.

"It looks like it's a load off his back. He seems very relaxed with it, he wasn't pressured at all. He feels good with it and doesn't want to have to deal with it anymore. He never relayed any pressure to me to attend the same program as his father. He wanted to go where he could contribute and fit in. He feels really comfortable with how good a program Auburn is."

But Burton isn't the only one impressed with the direction of the Auburn program. Fleetwood also coached at The Citadel from 2001-02, on the same staff as current Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. Fleetwood has confidence in Johnson, Malzahn, and the entire Tigers' staff.

"I worked with Ellis, he's a really good football coach. He brings lots to the table," said Fleetwood. "Of course, offensively, the up-tempo offense and how they run it, that's a big addition.

"Auburn's always been one of the top programs in the country anyway. Auburn's also big in Atlanta, lots of support here. Auburn's a school that gets everyone excited when they come around."

Twitter: @JHokanson



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