To say that Virginia first-year tight end Richard Burney is a "jack of all trades" would be understatement.
Burney had his hand in just about every team and every activity during his four years at Hickory High School. The six-foot-four, 235-pound athlete was a thrower on the track team, a power forward on the basketball team, and oh yeah, he played a little football too.
Burney was a star tight end, defensive end, and long-snapper for the Hawks. The 757 standout made plays all over the field, but earned All-Conference honors at tight end in both 2013 and 2014. Burney was a solid defensive end, and was one of the top long-snappers in the country for 2015, but the multidimensional athlete will play tight end for the Wahoos.
The former Hawk brings good size to the tight end position, and his basketball background will make him an ideal target for a jump-ball in the red zone. Burney still has a ways to go as far as blocking is concerned, but he is easily the most athletic tight end on the roster. Burney has taken steps in the right direction towards getting bigger, adding about 20 pounds of bulk between his junior and senior high school seasons.
Let's take a closer look at this athletic tight end.
Name: Richard Burney
High School: Hickory High School (Chesapeake Virginia)
Ranking: Rivals/247/ESPN 3-star
Recognition: Two-time All-Confernce 10 tight end, 757 All-Star Game participant, team MVP.
Burney is an prototypical "receiving tight end", and has speed to stretch the field. His 6-4, 235-pound frame dwarfs most opposing cornerbacks, and he has a knack for getting open as a quarterback's "safety valve." When lining up on the line of scrimmage, Burney can create match-up problems with opposing linebackers, and can use his speed advantage to exploit potential breakdowns in coverage.
The Virginia staff can get creative in the way that uses the freshman tight end from Chesapeake. Burney is an ideal candidate to flex out wide and take on the role of a traditional receiver in certain situations.
While Burney is not the traditional "line up and knock you off your block" tight end, the incoming first-year is a capable blocker.
Take a look in the .18 second mark, as Burney uses his hands and holds his block until the whistle blows. The play might not have gone anywhere, but his man was not going to get anywhere near the ball. While Burney will obviously struggle with bigger defensive ends, he should be able to handle pass-rushing linebackers and defensive backs.
Once revered a "Tight End U", the Wahoos are razor thin at the once proud position, despite having two seniors on the roster. Zach Swanson's graduation makes senior Rob Burns the only returning tight end to ever play in a single game at UVa. Burns has great height at six-foot-seven, but the former Stone Bridge standout is much more of a blocker, and has never caught a pass longer than eight yards. Stanford transfer Charlie Hopkins adds much-needed depth to the position, but he is brand new to the system, and is also blocking specialist. In addition, freshman Evan Butts is eligible after redshirting in 2014, but he is an unknown commodity coming into this fall.
Virginia signed two tight ends in 2015, in Burney and Tanner Cowley. It is hardly a foregone conclusion, but one of the first-year TEs might see the field this season. Cowley is a more skilled blocker, while Burney is a better receiver; it just depends on what the offensive staff is looking for.
Burney will certainly get his chances at tight end in the future, but he could have the biggest impact as a long-snapper. His snapping technique is top-notch, and Burney has the ability to get downfield to make the tackle in a hurry.
Incumbent LS start Tyler Shirley is only a sophomore, but Burney could certainly push him to be one of the leaders on special teams.