The sophomore offered to switch from wide receiver to quarterback to help provice depth behind two freshmen without college game experience, pointing out to Edsall that he had played the position to some acclaim in high school.
That afternoon, Burns trotted onto the practice field as the No. 3 quarterback and since has been settling into his new role as Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe handle duties with the first and second teams, respectively.
“With C.J. going down, I just felt like I could contribute to the team by switching over,” said Burns, who had been making strides at wide receiver since playing in seven games with one reception last season as a redshirt freshman.
Edsall told Burns as much after spring practice and entering training camp. With that vote of confidence, Burns continued to gain traction as the No. 2 “X” wide receiver behind senior Kevin Dorsey.
Burns (6 feet 3, 200 pounds) also had been developing a relationship with Brown and the other quarterbacks in training camp, although he worked plenty with Hills as part of the second-team offense.
Then after last Tuesday night, when Brown planted his right leg while running in a non-contact drill and the knee gave out, Burns began studying the playbook with an entirely different approach.
“It’s kind of been a little bit surprising from the standpoint coming out and really not having any problems with the cadence or those sort of things,” Edsall said of Burns. “That’s what you look for. Fumbled snaps or whatever. It’s very obvious. You can tell that he’s been a quarterback before.”
Burns played quarterback at Carver High School in Columbua, Ga., where he was recognized as honorable mention Class AAA all-state as a senior.
The offense Burns directed at Carver was similar to the new pro-style system first-year Terrapins offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has been installing in training camp, and that familiarity has helped ease the position change.
Burns showed that comfort level during his brief time on the field in Saturday’s scrimmage at Byrd Stadium. Playing the last 10 minutes, Burns on one play faked a draw handoff and kept the ball himself before breaking loose into the open field.
Fifty-four yards later, Burns reached the end zone untouched after clearing the first wave of defenders near the line of scrimmage.
“I’m glad he came to me so we could put him there,” Edsall said.
Burns is the only Terrapins quarterback with college in-game experience, and he speaks frequently with Hills and Rowe to try to help get them ready for the Sept. 1 opener against William & Mary.
Having played wide receiver briefly before Brown’s injury, Burns also can provide alternate ways of diagnosing a pass pattern that Hills or Rowe may not see from their vantage point.
“We’re definitely improving,” Burns said of the offense. “The two freshmen quarterbacks are getting better everyday. I’m even learning from them so you can just see the improvement.”