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Coach Kodi Burns: The Real A-Day MVP

By on April 12th, 2017 in Football, News 8 Comments »
Kodi Burns
Third Week of Spring Practice on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 in Auburn, AL
Lauren Barnard

Coach Kodi Burns (photo: Auburn media file)

The performance of Auburn’s receivers under Gus Malzahn has been mixed, at best. There’s no question that this group has been affected by difficulties at quarterback the past two years.  As the most important position in football, quarterback garners most of the attention and when that position doesn’t produce as expected, it overshadows nearly every other shortcoming on the field. Certainly, the last two year’s struggles of the Malzahn Hurry-Up-No-Huddle offense have been highlighted by the poor play of once-touted superstar Jeremy Johnson and the quarterback rotation that took place in the 2016 season. 

Due to those struggles the continued poor performance by Auburn’s receivers was ignored by many. After all, without a quarterback to deliver passes, the inability to catch is irrelevant. That doesn’t mean there weren’t moments that stood out to even the casual fan. Sean White may not be the prototypical SEC quarterback, but one only has to watch the 2015 Arkansas game to see that quarterback wasn’t the only issue.

Quality receiver depth has also been an issue. Although both Trooper Taylor and Dameyune Craig were excellent recruiters, neither were able to develop players.

Enter Kodi Burns, perhaps better known as Auburn’s quarterback turned receiver than as either recruiter or coach. In the seven years since he caught the first touchdown of Auburn’s 2010 National Championship victory, Burns has had a meteoric rise in the coaching ranks. He followed Malzahn to Arkansas State in 2012, came back to Auburn in 2013, then coached at Stanford, Middle Tennessee State, and Arizona State before coming back to Auburn in 2016. 

When he was hired to replace Coach Craig, there were those who thought this was just an example of Coach Malzahn staying in his comfort level. The performance of the receivers in 2016 did little to change that impression.. Despite the potential receiver talent on the Plains, would bringing a potential all star such as Jarrett Stidham be spoiled by a lack of well-developed weapons for him to throw to?

Auburn’s spring game was definitely the Jarrett Stidham Show, no doubt about it. The Baylor transfer came to Auburn with some very good stats. In limited action, he threw for over 1,200 yards and 12 TDs. Saturday, he threw for 267 yards…in one half. Thanks to a drop and a fumble by running back Kam Martin and a missed connection with Jason Smith, even those stats were a bit deceptive. He should have had over 300 yards and two TDs. The performance seemed to legitimize the Heisman hype.

Yet, a very large grain of salt must be taken before talking up Stidham’s Heisman odds. Those Big 12 stats are just that: Big 12 Stats. They came in a very limited sample size. Additionally, Stidham was throwing the ball to three NFL receivers in Corey Coleman, KD Cannon, and Jay Lee. Saturday, Stidham wasn’t live as he stood solid in the pocket behind the starting offensive line. His young receivers, however, were live and they sure looked like the kind of weapons Stidham is used to throwing to

While much was expected from the nation’s best receiver class in last year’s recruiting cycle, the young players struggled in 2016. Saturday, Nate Craig-Myers, Darius Slayton, and even oft-dismissed Marquis McClain shined. Last season, every receiver was often confused and hesitant at the point of attack. Yet these three players were three of the top four producers in the Saturday scrimmage and they were dynamic, even dominating. Credit for that is almost assuredly due to their coach, Kodi Burns.

The player who, perhaps, speaks the loudest to coach Burns’ abilities is Will Hastings. He had seven catches for 75 yards, was the first player Stidham threw to in the game, and he was the player Stidham targeted when things got tough. The speedy slot man looked nearly untouchable, although he fumbled to end a promising drive, and seemed to be the perfect complement to the other receivers. Who would have thought a converted walk-on kicker would be the go-to guy! But, who would know how to turn walk-ons into heroes better than Kodi Burns?

The race at quarterback was what filled the seats on Saturday but it isn’t really a race at all. Nor is it the reason that Auburn is going to succeed in 2017. With the experienced line, a loaded backfield, and competent receivers any competent QB, regardless if it’s Stidham or White, is going to be able to throw the ball. Can Kodi Burns do the job that no one else has done and get those pass catchers ready? The answer Saturday was emphatically “yes,” which made Kodi Burns the real A-Day  MVP. 

8 Comments

  1. AtkinsonTiger AtkinsonTiger says:

    Good write up Zach

    I'm glad Kodi Burns is coaching receivers and you have to give him credit for Saturday but as you said when the QB position doesn’t produce as expected, it overshadows everything else. If JJ hadn't been a bust, then who knows what Auburn could have done the last two years. The receivers have got to have confidence in their QB and they seem to have it with Stidham. Good times ahead?

  2. neonbets says:

    If Stidham’s sample size is too small, then so is the sample size of these receivers. [Alternatively, this same group and this same coach struggled in 2016 by your own admission. What has changed from now to then?]

    • AUjamstan says:

      What changed? Chip Lindsey taking the reins. The QB situation is greatly changed and Kodi has orders from the top to train the receiver corps to be “desperate” to get open. With all due respect to Coach Lashlee, he and Malzahn were together for too long and were becoming way too deferential to each other. The outcome was glaringly predictable and no one was holding the reins. Just one man’s opinion, but I hope that answers your question. This should be a fun season to watch. WDE!

    • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

      No one is debating this. This says "mvp of A-day."

      I said it just that way for a reason becuase i knew a lot of people would immediately fall into that trap.

      The receivers were, by far, the most impressive group on the field saturday.

      Am I sold on Burns? About as much as I was on Peyton Barber being the chick-fil-a kickoff mvp.

      Think about it.

  3. neonbets says:

    …sorry…from then ’till now…

  4. AUsomeAU AUsomeAU says:

    Just saw on the twitter that Al Borges is coming back to Auburn and will work under Chip Lindsey as an offensive analyst … OMG!!! 🙂 It was tweeted from Chris Low of ESPN … WDE!

    • jbellison56 says:

      For real?
      If so, you have to wonder how much influence he will have and will the offense be run by a committee of 3? – Lindsey, Malzahn, & Borgess?

  5. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ……Borges has some good offensive plans, but they take a while for players to learn. Meanwhile, folks saying that recruiting wasn’t his strength, are being kind. Borges coached QB’s at Auburn for 4 years. Who did he bring in during that span? Blake Field, Neil Caudle and Kodi Burns.

    ……Getting a good wide receiver culture going isn’t an overnight thing. I can remember back in 1991, needing to replace the departed Larry Blakeney, Pat Dye hired Tommy Bowden as the receivers coach and offensive coordinator. That was an unpopular move among other offensive assistants, and frankly, the receivers early in that period hated Bowden.

    ……Bowden survived Dye’s resignation, and held on to his job as his brother Terry was named head coach. Only three receivers from the Dye era survived into the 1993 Attitude team, Frank Sanders, Thomas Bailey and Shawn Carder. But, receiving became a threat for the next 4 years. Sanders was an All-American in 1994, then Willie Gosha tied or set records in 1995.

    …..Auburn scored 30 or more points per game, EVERY season from 1993 through 1996, a feat that has never been equaled at Auburn. That era produced some star receivers, like Sanders, Tyrone Goodson, Karsten Bailey, Robert Baker, and more. At the end of the 1996 season, Tommy Bowden was hired away by Tulane to be the head coach (where he subsequently went undefeated his first season, and was then positioned to take the Clemson job.)

    ……Once Tommy Bowden left, production started dropping off. On this vein, I was certainly willing to cut Kodi Burns some slack in his first season as a wide receivers coach. He had a very young cast to work with, and the emphasis was to put the best downfield blockers out there, regardless of their hands. Kodi’s guys had their moments last season, and they put on a show on A-Day this year.

    …..Give him time!

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