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Countdown to Virginia Football: #87 Richard Burney

We missed a few guys during our countdown. So now we’re playing catchup. Here’s #87 Richard Burney, one of 2 scholarship TEs on the roster. It will be very interesting to see how, or if, they are utilized in the new offensive scheme.

Virginia Media Relations

Position: TE
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 235
Year: RS Freshman
Hometown: Chesapeake, VA
Twitter: @BurneyRichard

With a new coach and a brand new offensive scheme, the TE position has become something of an afterthought. The Hoos’ new offense will be a high-pace, spread offense with multiple WR sets and lots of misdirection. That doesn’t tend to fit with TEs. The only time you’re likely to see the Hoos using TEs would be short-yardage plays. And, even then, the Hoos figure to try to spread the defense out with a wide formation.

Last year, BYU had 10 TEs on the roster. Only 2 caught passes, with a total of 10 catches. The previous year, not a single one of the 9 TEs on the roster caught a pass. Watching highlights of BYU football games from the past 2 years, I have not seen a single play with an in-line TE.

And yet, the Hoos still have 3 TEs on the roster. One of those TEs is converted QB Brendan Marshall, who is already a redshirt junior and likely wouldn’t generate a ton of interest from other schools. But Evan Butts and Richard Burney both had other options coming out of high school and could probably have gotten a free transfer following the firing of Mike London. Bronco Mendenhall doesn’t seem like the type of guy who would send a player packing simply because that player doesn’t fit his scheme. But the two TEs could’ve chosen to transfer. And they didn’t. That leads one to believe that Bronco and offensive coordinator Robert Anae have a plan for Butts and Burney. (Tanner Cowley was also listed as a TE last year, but has been moved to WR.)

Burney was a 3-star recruit from ESPN, Rivals and 247sports, but just 2-stars from Scout. He had an offer from Cincinnati, but otherwise was all FCS schools (other than the Hoos of course). Along with TE, he was also a DE in high school. So, it’s possible that the plan for him is a move to defense. Though we’d probably have heard about that by now and we haven’t.

Burney is a big kid who provides a big target. He has good hands, but not great hands. He actually played some special teams last year, but was able to retain his redshirt because he suffered an injury and missed most of the season. The Hoos have some bigger WR options, including 6’3” Keeon Johnson and Andre Levrone. But neither as as big as Burney (or Butts for that matter) and both are upper-classmen. Burney’s use could be as a big option around the goalline and in short yardage plays.

Burney’s video on Hudl shows him spending a fair amount of time split out wide. On these plays, he seems to be running either a slant or a drag. That could be how Anae is going to use the TEs. Split them out and run them across the field. If the defense wants to line up a LB out there, that opens up the middle of the field for a run. And if the defenses lines up a DB, the Hoos have a big size advantage outside. As a blocker, Burney is going to struggle blocking DEs simply because of lack of size and strength. But in space, Burney could be a plus blocker. This is another reason to split him out. It gets a big guy, and an experienced blocker, out on the perimeter, increasing the chances of a RB gaining the edge, which could lead to a big play. Anae also likes to run quick screens or quick outs to WRs, and having a TE out there to block helps on those plays as well.