FAYETTEVILLE — Treylon Burks was a bright spot for the University of Arkansas last fall as a true freshman out of Warren High School where he was a two-way standout for Bo Hembree.
At Arkansas last fall, Burks played in 11 games with nine starts. He caught 29 passes for 475 yards and rushed nine times for 35 yards. But he also made a big impact on special teams. Burks returned 12 punts for 130 yards (10.8 averaged) with a long of 32. He also returned 10 kickoffs for 226 yards with a long of 42. He was 0 of 1 passing.
While he was very good at returning punts and didn’t have any fumbles, new special team’s coordinator Scott Fountain talked about his impressions of Burks’ style of catching the football.
“He’s a kid who when I first got here Coach (Justin) Stepp had mentioned he catches the ball above his head,” Fountain said. “So I brought him in, this was before we ever had spring ball, I said ‘Treylon, if an NFL team has two guys of equal value, both great returners – and you’re a great returner – who are they gonna take? A guy that catches above his head or a guy that’s gonna catch it properly with a body tuck?
“So he kind of took it to heart and has really worked on it. He got in the first practice and really looked great. I’m really, really proud of him. It’s been really good.”
With Burks comfortable catching the football over his head and no fumbles what was the risk of him continuing to do it?
“Any time you catch the ball above your head or if you’re running down the field with the ball over your head, it’s certainly got a better chance of getting knocked out,” Fountain said. “We’d just like him to tuck the ball to his body and keep that from happening. If a guy catches the ball over his head and runs for a touchdown or 40 yards, I’m going to slap him on the butt and tell him, ‘Hell of a job.’ I’m not going to say, ‘You didn’t tuck the ball in.’ I’m just trying to work with him on securing it and trying to not only make his future better here but make his future better down the road. He’s a heck of a kid and a heck of a return guy.”
Burks was asked about changing his style of catching punts and is continuing to improve in that area.
““It’s a battle every day,” Burks said on Aug. 24. “Sometimes I get in that old habit and catch the ball with just my hands, but we’ve been working, the team has been working with me to get better at catching the ball like I’m supposed to. I’m going to do it the right way this time.”
Fountain plans to use Burks and other key players on special teams and that’s fine with Burks.
“I mean I’ll do whatever it takes to help the Razorbacks,” Burks said. “It doesn’t bother me a lot. We condition ourselves every day to be better. The strength staff gets us in that position. So again you want to do multiple things.”
An oddity of sorts with Burks considering his talent is he touched the football 61 times last fall and didn’t score a touchdown.
“I mean it would be nice to get in the end zone but I’m not really worried about that part of getting in the end zone,” Burks said. “I’m just worried about making plays and help the team. If I do score, hurray but I just want to win with the team.”
Arkansas will return to the practice fields today. The Hogs open the season on Saturday, Sept. 26, against Georgia in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The kickoff is set for 3 p.m. and the game televised on the SEC Network.