Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

August 28, 2013

Burbank to be center of attention at Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — For Ross Burbank, there’s no better motivator than failure.

The Virginia sophomore and his offensive linemates had a big dose of failure during a dismal performance in the Cavaliers’ spring game.

The unit allowed more than a dozen sacks, breaking open the competition for jobs.

Burbank took advantage, and when Virginia opens the season Saturday against BYU, the 6-foot-4, 290-pound sophomore will be the starting center and signal caller for the reworked offensive line.

His rise is the culmination of a group effort that started last spring.

“There was a little disappointment about how the O-line played and I think a couple guys took it to heart to really focus this summer, improve things that really needed to be worked on. Small things,” Burbank said.

“We had a lot of player-run drills. ... We kind of pulled together to really prove ourselves.”

Line coach Scott Wachenheim helped inspire the work with his anger at the shoddy showing, and Luke Bowwanko, last year’s center and one of this year’s captains, said introspection did, too.

For Burbank, being part off the problem was plenty of motivation.

“As a player, you have to be hard on yourself,” he said this week. “Your coaches, obviously, are critical, and I feel like that’s some of the best motivation is not being successful.”

The road from the second team hasn’t always been smooth.

“It’s very impressive with Ross because that battle had a lot of ups and downs for everyone that was involved,” Bowanko said of Burbank’s battle for the position with Jackson Matteo, who came out of the spring listed as the starter. “It wasn’t a smooth path for Ross throughout camp. I mean, there were some practices where you thought coach was going to rip his head off, but that’s kind of ebbs and flows of any football camp. The most impressive thing about Ross was the way he handled it.”

While seemingly uncomfortable talking about his battle with Matteo, Burbank said the improvement in the play of all the linemen has been evident throughout preseason camp.

“I think that’s one thing that’s changed a lot this camp. There’s been a lot of up-tempo. The pace of practice has really improved and I think the attitudes of guys have really improved as well,” he said.

Perhaps none more than Burbank, who coach Mike London labeled “a pleasant surprise” who has benefited from a year of strength and conditioning work, work with a nutritionist and playing experience.

“I think there’s a maturity level that he’s experienced, and he just kind of emerged as a guy that has proven that he can make out the calls in terms of identifying the Mike linebacker,” London said. “He can make the line calls and protection calls, so his knowledge of the game has increased, as well.”

The Cougars and their 3-4 alignment present a stiff test out of the gate, and Burbank will line up across from 6-2, 305-pound nose tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna on most plays, but he and the rest of the line feel confident that the Cavaliers’ defense under new coordinator Jon Tenuta has prepared them well.

“I feel like we have a darned good defensive line,” he said, “and if we feel comfortable blocking them, we can feel comfortable blocking a lot of other guys.”


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