Fifth-year senior inside linebacker Amari Burney, going into his final season with the Gators, is preparing for another season opener against the Utah Utes Saturday. His time during the fall camp consisted of him grinding it out with inside linebackers coach Jay Bateman. Feeling 100 percent, he says that he’s back.
The St. Petersburg, Florida, native was a force on the defensive unit in Florida’s 2021 campaign under former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, collecting 44 total tackles through 13 games. Burney has taken from what he has learned from his former coach and used that knowledge towards understanding the new defense under defensive coordinators Sean Spencer and Patrick Toney.
However, understanding this defense is only the tip of the iceberg for Burney.
“Once you understand it, though, it kind of gets complex a little bit,” Burney said. “We can say it’s very easy, but we’re trying to become 4D players so we know every position. So we’re on the field, we can play faster.”
Describing himself as a 3D player, knowing the people in front of him on gameday, he broke down this weekend’s competition on the field with much respect to the Utah Utes offense.
When looking at the tight end group, Burney spotlighted senior tight ends Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid. From watching film, Burney believes they will be an interesting challenge for UF. Even calling the six-foot-four Kincaid a hybrid tight end, seeing him being used in the Utes offense similarly like former Gators tight end Kyle Pitts.
Coming off of their first Pac-12 championship, the physical offense looks to continue with junior running back Tavion Thomas after his 1,108-rushing season in 2021 to run 12,13 personnel. Burney believes the Florida defense will balance the field of play.
“I feel like this defense is going to match up very well,” Burney said. “P.T. (Patrick Toney) has prepared us very well for this game, and we’re going to match up.”
The defense had a small dose against the run in scrimmages during the fall camp. However, looked well when it came to fending off penalties. An issue that Burney emphasized as an important part in the recent scrimmages in camp with Southeastern Conference officials officiating the practice last week.
“Last year we kept shooting ourselves in the foot, Burney said. “If I may say, with jumping offsides, hands to the face. You can’t win games like that.”
This season, Burney has seen a different approach to Florida’s conditioning routine. More now of speed training than time in the weight room in years past. Something that might help the linebacker in his 40 time as he looks to be NFL ready for next year’s draft.
However, Burney wouldn’t get into details of his 40-yard dash, laughing as he tells the media they’ll witness it next year.
If one thing is certain, Burney is not trash talking anyone on the Utes roster. Even former Gators are saved from ridicule such as former UF linebacker Mohamound Diabate.
The two linebackers worked together in the Gators secondary in 2019-2021. The old teammates have no bad blood for week one.
“I can’t remember the last time I spoke to him. We’ve kind of been doing our things, just getting ready for the game.”
As UF inches closer to Saturday, coach Bateman continues to instill a determined mindset in his linebacker group. Always making sure to let his group know: when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.
“Coach Bateman is going to tell you what it is. He’s not going to sugarcoat nothing,” Burney said. “Even me and Ventrell (Miller), we get it. He makes us start the drills over because we’re examples for the younger guys to do the drills right. So, it’s very helpful for him to be here, and I’m very grateful for him.”
Burney and the Gators will host Utah Saturday at 7 p.m. in The Swamp to a sold-out crowd. This will be the first time these two programs have seen each other on the gridiron since 1977.